University of California Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series
Richard L. Arrowood
SONOMA COUNTY WINEMAKING: CHATEAU ST. JEAN AND
ARROWOOD VINEYARDS & WINERY
Interviews Conducted by
in 1995 and 1996
Copyright 1996 by The Regents of the University of California
Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a method of
collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-
informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the
historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for
continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected
manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material,
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved,
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement
between The Regents of the University of California and Richard L.
Arrowood dated August 24, 1995. The manuscript is thereby made
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University
of California, Berkeley.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library,
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal
agreement with Richard L. Arrowood requires that he be notified of
the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Richard L. Arrowood, "Sonoma County
Winemaking: Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood
Vineyards & Winery," an oral history
conducted in 1995 and 1996 by Carole
Hicke, Regional Oral History Office, The
Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley, 1996.
Richard L. Arrowood and Alls Demers Arrowood, ca. 1990.
Photograph courtesy of Alis Demers Arrowood
ARROWOOD, Richard L. (b. 1945) Winery Owner and Winemaster
Sonoma County Winemaking: Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood Vineyards &
Winery, 1996, viii, 140 pp.
Early career at Korbel Champagne Cellars, Italian Swiss Colony, Sonoma
Vineyards; winemaker, Chateau St. Jean: winery start-up, growth, vineyard-
designated labels, Chardonnay, Late Harvest Riesling; sale to Suntory Corp.
and working with the Japanese; Arrowood Vineyards: founding in 1986;
building the winery, winemaking and vineyard management, Domaine du Grand
Archer, Smothers Bros., financing growth; discusses cooperage, bottles, and
corks, small and large wineries. Includes interview with Alis Arrowood (b.
1951) on marketing and public relations.
Interviewed in 1995-1996 by Carole Hicke for the Wine Spectator California
Wine Oral History Series, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley.
TABLE OF CONTENTS --Richard L. Arrowood
INTERVIEW HISTORY- -by Carole Hicke vi
I BACKGROUND AND FAMILY 1
Vanoni Family 1
Arrowood Clan 3
Growing Up in Santa Rosa 4
College and University Education 5
II DEVELOPING A KNOWLEDGE OF WINE 8
Summer Work at Korbel Champagne Cellars, 1965 8
Studies at California State University, Fresno, 1968-1969 10
III EARLY WORK EXPERIENCE IN WINE INDUSTRY 15
Continuing at Korbel, then to Italian Swiss Colony 15
Joining Rodney Strong Vineyards 17
IV WINEMAKER FOR CHATEAU ST. JEAN 20
Making the Wines 27
Allan Hemphill, President of Chateau St. Jean 28
Problems Developing at Chateau St. Jean 39
Chateau St. Jean Sold to Suntory 41
V ARROWOOD VINEYARDS & WINERY 53
Finding the Site 53
Alis Arrowood 53
The Winery Property 57
Building the Winery 59
Wine Production 61
Financial Negotiations 62
Fining and Filtering 69
A Smaller Winery- -The Personal Touch 70
Yeasts and Fermentation 74
Bottles and Corks 78
Other Labels: Domaine du Grand Archer; Smothers Brothers 81
Vineyards and Vineyard Management 82
VI SONOMA COUNTY 88
Evolution of Winegrowing 88
Vineyards: Growth and Replanting 91
Fruit and Blending 93
Changes in Ownership 96
Wine Auctions and Other Activities 100
Thoughts on the Future 104
VII INTERVIEW WITH ALIS ARROWOOD: MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTION 107
Getting Arrowood Winery Started: Cellar Work 107
Growth of Sales and Distribution
In the Marketplace: Life on the Run 114
Expanding the Market 118
Selling Grand Archer
Professional Associations and Activities 124
A "Mead on Wine" article re. Arrowood wines by Jerry D. Mead 132
B Wine Spectator announcement, April 30, 1995, re. Arrowood
1993 White Riesling. I 33
C "The Ashington-Pickett Wine Review" announcement, Vol. 1,
Issue 11, re. Arrowood 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1994. 134
D The Underground Wine Journal (Vol. XIV, No. 6) and San
Francisco Chronicle (July 28, 1993) announcements re.
Arrowood 1991 and 1992 releases. 135
E Arrowood Vineyards and Winery wine list, 1994. 137
INDEX I 38
The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated by Ruth Teiser in 1969
through the action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a
state marketing order organization which ceased operation in 1975. In
1983 it was reinstituted as The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral
History Series with donations from The Wine Spectator Scholarship
Foundation. The selection of those to be interviewed has been made by a
committee consisting of the director of The Bancroft Library, University
of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, president of the Wine
Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard A. Amerine,
Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of California,
Davis; the current chairman of the board of directors of the Wine
Institute; Carole Hicke, series project director; and Marvin R. Shanken,
trustee of The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.
Until her death in June 1994, Ruth Teiser was project originator,
initiator, director, and conductor of the greater part of the oral
histories. Her book, Winemaking in California, co-authored with
Catherine Harroun and published in 1982, was the product of more than
forty years of research, interviewing, and photographing. (Those wine
history files are now in The Bancroft Library for researcher use.) Ruth
Teiser 's expertise and knowledge of the wine industry contributed
significantly to the documenting of its history in this series.
The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on
California grape growing and winemaking that has existed only in the
memories of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the
early years of this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are
of particular value because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of
not only the industry itself but also the orderly recording and
preservation of records of its activities. Little has been written about
the industry from late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933), although
some commercial winemaking did continue under supervision of the
Prohibition Department. The material in this series on that period, as
well as the discussion of the remarkable development of the wine industry
in subsequent years will be of aid to historians. Of particular value is
the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from
his or her own point of view.
Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State
Library, and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its
collection of materials readily available for the purpose.
The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed
significantly to recent California history. The office is headed by
Willa K. Baum and is under the administrative supervision of The Bancroft
The Wine Spectator California Winemen
Oral History Series
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS
Interviews Completed as of September 1996
Leon D. Adams, Revitalizing the California Wine Industry. 197 A
Leon D. Adams, California Wine Industry Affairs; Recollections and Opinions.
Maynard A. Amerine, The University of California and the State's Wine
Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies.
Richard L. Arrowood, Sonoma County Winemaking: Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood
Vineyards & Winery, 1996
Philo Biane, Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of Fruit
Industries. Inc. , 1972
Charles A. Carpy, Viticulture and Enology at Freemark Abbey. 1994
John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry. 1986
Charles Crawford, Recollections of a Career with the Gallo Winery and the
Development of the California Wine Industry. 1942-1989. 1990
Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks, The California
Wine Industry During the Depression. 1972
William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology, 1967
Jack and Jamie Peterman Davies, Rebuilding Schramsberg; The Creation of a
California Champagne House, 1990
William A. Dieppe, Almaden is My Life. 1985
Paul Draper, History and Philosophy of Winemaking at Ridge Vineyards: 1970s-
Daniel J. and Margaret S. Duckhorn, Mostly Merlot; The History of Duckhorn
Ficklin, David, Jean, Peter, and Steve, Making California Port Wine: Ficklin
Vineyards from 1948 to 1992. 1992
Brooks Firestone, Firestone Vineyard; A Santa Ynez Valley Pioneer. 1996
Louis J. Foppiano, A Century of Winegrowing in Sonoma County. 1896-1996. 1996
Alfred Fromm, Marketing California Wine and Brandy. 1984
Louis Gomberg, Analytical Perspectives on the California Wine Industry. 1935-
Miljenko Grgich, A Croatian-American Winemaker in the Napa Valley. 1992
Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley. 1986
Agustin Huneeus, A World View of the Wine Industry, 1996
Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry.
Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture. 1988
Morris Katz, Paul Masson Winery Operations and Management, 1944-1988, 1990
Legh F. Knowles, Jr., Beaulieu Vineyards from Family to Corporate Ownership,
Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and Other
Wine Enterprises. 1971
Zelma R. Long, The Past is the Beginning of the Future: Simi Winery in its
Second Century, 1992
Richard Maher, California Winery Management and Marketing. 1992
Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley.
Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry. 1984
Eleanor McCrea, Stony Hill Vineyards; The Creation of a Napa Valley Estate
Winery. 1990 "
Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy. 1973
Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara
Valley Winery. 1986
Peter Mondavi, Advances in Technology and Production at Charles Krug Winery,
Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Industry. 1985
Michael Moone, Management and Marketing at Beringer Vineyards and Wine World.
Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California. 1944-1987. 1988
Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties. 1976
Cornelius Ough, Researches of an Enologist. University of California. Davis,
John A. Parducci, Six Decades of Making Wine in Mendocino County. California.
Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Wine Making. 1975
Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry. 1971
Jefferson E. Peyser, The Law and the California Wine Industry. 1974
Joseph Phelps, Joseph Phelps Vineyards: Classic Wines and Rhone Varietals,
Lucius Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry. 1974
Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, Perspectives on California Wines. 1976
Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry. 1971
Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., Italian Swiss Colony. 1949-1989; Recollections of a
Third-Generation California Winemaker. 1990
Arpaxat Setrakian, A. Setrakian. a Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape
Elie Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker. 1988
David S. Stare, Fume Blanc and Meritage Wines in Sonoma County; Dry Creek
Vineyard's Pioneer Winemaking. 1996
Rodney S. Strong, Rodney Strong Vineyards; Creative Winemaking and Winery
Management in Sonoma County. 1994
Andre Tchelistchef f , Grapes. Wine, and Ecology. 1983
Brother Timothy, The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers, 1974
Louis (Bob) Trinchero, California Zinfandels. a Success Story. 1992
Charles F. Wagner and Charles J. Wagner, Caymus Vineyards; A Father-Son Team
Producing Distinctive Wines. 1994
Wente, Jean, Carolyn, Philip, and Eric, The Wente Family and the California
Wine Industry. 1992
Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley. 1971
Warren Winiarski, Creating Classic Wines in the Napa Valley. 1994
Albert J. Winkler, Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971), 1973
John H. Wright, Domaine Chandon: The First French-owned California Sparkling
Wine Cellar, includes an interview with Edmond Maudiere, 1992
INTERVIEW HISTORY- -Richard L. Arrowood
Richard Arrowood, owner and winemaster of Arrowood Vineyards and Winery,
was interviewed as part of the Wine Spectator's California Wine Oral History
Series to document his career and contributions to the history of California
wines. His wife, Alis Arrowood, was also interviewed as part of this oral
history to record her work in the marketing and distribution field.
Dick Arrowood made a name for himself as winemaker for the Chateau St.
Jean winery in the 1970s and 1980s. As that winery's first employee, he was
instrumental in its growth and recognition. In 1986 he and Alis invested in
property near Glen Ellen, California, and built the Arrowood Vineyards.
Richard talked candidly and occasionally vehemently about the growing of fine
wines and the making of a top-quality winery. His experiences inform the
reader of the many aspects of winegrowing that require care and expertisenot
just producing the wines but managing the business.
Alis detailed the role of the marketing and distribution manager,
including her normal daily routine when on the road.
Dick and Alis were interviewed in their offices at the beautiful winery
they built near Glen Ellen in the Sonoma Valley. Dick was interviewed on
August 24, November 13, 1995, and February 7, 1996. Alis's recollections were
recorded on February 7, 1996. Both reviewed their transcripts carefully and
made corrections that clarified their statements.
This series is part of the ongoing documenting of California history by
the Regional Oral History Office, which is under the direction of Willa Baum,
Division Head, and under the administrative direction of The Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley.
July 29, 1996
Regional Oral History Office
Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720
(Please write clearly. Use black ink.)
Your full name yC.vJU.M Jl
Date of birth\l/ql4S
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Mother's full name
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Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720
(Please write clearly. Use black ink.)
Your full name
Date of birth Q% / 3/ / 6 /
Father's full name
Mother's full name
Where did you grow up?
eas of expertise
Other interests or activities
Organizations in which you are active
I BACKGROUND AND FAMILY
[Interview 1: August 24, 1995] II 1
Hicke: Let's just start out this morning with when and where you were
Arrowood: I was born in San Francisco, California, on December 9, 1945.
Hicke: Well, a real Californian!
Arrowood: You bet, yes. As a matter of fact, that was really the only
time I was to spend any time out of the north coast area. I
consider myself a Sonoma County native, so of my forty-nine
years, I've probably lived in, actually in the Santa Rosa
vicinity and Sonoma County, for forty-seven and a half of those
Hicke: Okay, so you moved out early. But before we get into that, let
me ask you what you can tell me about your forebears, your
Arrowood: I'm just going to give you what was told to me. Some of this
I've seen in writing, not all of it, looking back to my
grandfather and great-grandfather and grandmother and great-
My ancestry on my mother's side is Swiss Italian.
Hicke: What was her name?
'This symbol (it) indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has
begun or ended. A guide to the tapes follows the transcript.
Arrowood: Vanoni [spells].
Hicke: That was her last name?
Arrowood: That was her maiden name, right.
Hicke: And her first name?
Arrowood : Donna .
Hicke: Well, you were about to tell me about your grandfather and
Arrowood: Yes. My great-great-grandfather was one of the original
founderswith a group, I think, the growers groupof Italian
Swiss Colony Winery. But I don't have all the details. That
really had no influence on me getting into the business, but
that was my understanding that Mark Vanoni, when he came off the
boat from Italy, was one of the original founders there.
Hicke: He came from what part of Italy?
Arrowood: Lake Como area, right on the Switzerland-Italy border.
Hicke: He was Italian Swiss!
Arrowood: Yes, exactly.
Hicke: Very appropriate. Okay, so he must have come before the turn of
the century, I guess.
Arrowood: Yes, back in the late 1800s, and again, I don't have all the
details of that. I'm just trying to think who might if you
really wanted to get that information, but it would probably be-
- there still are some Vanonis living up in Geyserville, which is
where they were originally settled. They had the Vanoni Ranch
up there. So my grandfather, Al Vanoni, which was my mother's
father, had a shop in Geyserville, as a matter of fact. That
picture [points to picture] is one of the shops in the early
Hicke: A machine shop?
Arrowood: He had a machine shop, and then he also was a deputy sheriff,
and also the poundmaster in Sonoma County for a period of time.
Arrowood: Yes. That's the animal control officer. At that time they were
called poundmasters .
Hicke: On this ranch that your great-grandfatherit was your great
Arrowood: Yes, the Vanoni Ranch.
Hicke: Was he growing grapes?
Arrowood: You know, I don't know what they had on the ranch. No, I think
it was a cattle ranch, if I'm not mistaken, at the time. But
again, to find some of that history out, you'd probably have to
get into some of the Sonoma County archives. I know that
Clement Vanoni, Jr., is still alive and lives on part of the
ranch. They sold a good part of it. It's now known as The
Vineyard in Geyserville, and that was the old Vanoni Ranch. But
a lot of that information, again, I just don't have.
Now, interestingly enough, my grandmother and grandfather
are still alive. My mother and father have passed away. My
grandfather probably is not going to make it much longer. I saw
him the other day; he's very, very old. But my grandmother is
eighty-eight years old and looks like she's about seventy.
She's very alert and very aware of what's going on. So that's
really, as far as on my mother's side anyway, the family that's
Arrowood: On my father's side, there's really only one member of the
Arrowood clanhis sister is still alive, my aunt. She lives in
Santa Rosa. But other than that, they're all gone.
Hicke: Where did they come from?
Arrowood: Originally from Modoc County, and then they settled here in
Santa Rosa. My grandmother on my father's side, my father's
mother, her maiden name was Mulkey [spells]. She married Jay
Arrowood, and Jay was originally from Savannah, Georgia.
Hicke: That's amazing. You have family on both sides that have been
Calif ornians for generations.
Arrowood: Yes, for quite some time. That's right.
Hicke: Jay Arrowood was your grandfather, you said.
Arrowood: That was my grandfather; that was my father's father.
Hicke: Why did he move to Sonoma?
Arrowood: Good question. I really don't -know. I know he worked at
Arragonies Market in Santa Rosa. As a matter of fact, that's my
grandfather, my father's father, so on my father's side, that's
my grandfather. [points to picture]
Hicke: Oh, these pictures are wonderful.
Arrowood: And my grandmother here. And then my grandfather on my mother's
side here in the navy. You have to dig through some of the old
records to find out just all the details, but I'm only recalling
it as well as I can remember as a youngster.
Hicke: Okay, so back to San Francisco. You lived there until you were
Arrowood: I think actually--! don't know all the details on the San
Francisco thing--! think I was only there for just a few months,
and then my mother moved here to Sonoma County. You see, my
background is a little different than usual. My father, Clyde
Arrowood, is not my paternal father. My paternal father is a
man by the name of Kenneth Jensen, and the last time I talked to
him was when I was still in college, so it's been that longbut
I believe he's still alive, as far as I know, and lives in
Madison, Wisconsin. So that's the other side of my family. I
really don't know a lot of the details of that side, because
when my mother and father split, I was young enough where I
didn't realize what that scenario was. I know that he was in
the coast guard when my mom and dad got married originally. So
that part of the family aspect is kind of in the background
Then when the man I consider my father adopted me, my name
changed from Jensen to Arrowood. So that was back when I was
three or four or whatever age I was then.
Growing Up in Santa Rosa
Hicke: What part of Sonoma did you grow up in?
Arrowood: I grew up in Santa Rosa.
Hicke: You said that, yes.
Okay. You went to school there, high
Arrowood: Went to school there, you bet. As a matter of fact, the funny
part of this whole school thing is that Alexander Valley School,
which is now owned by Alexander Valley Vineyards --they have it
as a guest houseboth my mother and my grandmother went to
class in that little school, and when I went to high school in
Santa Rosa, I had the same English teacher that taught both my
grandmother and my mother English.
Hicke: Good heavens!
Arrowood: Yes. That's kind of amazing. I'm sure she's long gone by now.
Hicke: Oh, that is amazing. I've heard of people following their
brothers and sisters, but not too many who have followed their
Now, what things did you like about school?
Arrowood: Oh, I think from the beginning, I've always been one of these
curious kids, so when I got my first chemistry set when I was
twelve, that became my area of focus, so I always enjoyed the
sciences. After I went through the grammar school era, went to
Santa Rosa Junior High School, Santa Rosa High School, Santa
Rosa Junior College, I then went off to college at California]
State University, Sacramento, and got my degree in chemistry.
Then I did my graduate work in fermentation science at Cal State
University, Fresno. Because my father was a good friend of
Adolph Heck, who owned Korbel Champagne Cellars, my first job in
the wine business in 1965 was at Korbel.
College and University Education
Hicke: That's a good overview. Now let's back up a little bit. Were
there any teachers let ' s go back to high school and ask about
any teachers you particularly remember.
Arrowood: Well, high school teachers? Probably none that I could point a
finger to and say yes, they really motivated me. I think
probably it didn't really occurmy motivation in following the
sciences and chemistry probably didn't occur really until I got
into junior college. There were two people that impacted me, I
think, very well there. There was a fellow by the name of Glen
Watson, Glen W. Watson. He was a chemistry professor and
department head. And then also a fellow by the name of Vincent
Cucuzza [spells]. He also was a very strong influence. He was
a chemistry professor also. Both of these gentlemen, I think,
in their own ways, influenced me enough to want to pursue the
career that I did; so after I got my degree in chemistry, I then
decided, Well, okay, I'll do my work in fermentation science,
because of the fact that I had a summertime job at a winery and
I felt it was a very interesting career field.
But I think that their influence on me was probably to the
extent of showing me, "Hey, look, you can do just about anything
you want to do." If you've got the drive, the gray matter is
there, if you really want to do it. But you've got to work on
it. Sciences came relatively easy to me. My biggest problem I
think in school was I just didn't spend much time in the
humanities. I had no time for that. I was always kind of a
resentful kid that all the people in humanities and sociology
never had to take chemistry, but all the people in chemistry, of
course, had to take the "damn sociology" and things like that,
that meant nothing to me then.
Unfortunately, today I wish I had taken more interest in
that, because obviously that's what makes the world go around
and how you get along with people better, and I think it would
have perhaps given me a different outlook. At the time, I was
really, again, into the sciences, and so that was my major area
of focus, and everything else wasn't important to me. But you
evolve and you grow and you mature out of that scenario.
Yes. It's probably easier to learn that aspect of things by
yourself than it would be chemistry.
Yes, I suppose. But like anything else, if you would have
realized the usefulness that was there--. The problem is, much
of the rote material that was being taught at the time was so
damn dreadfully dry and boring that you couldn't see any
relationship to what you could use this for, let alone what the
heck I'd ever use this for in life. And that's a shame, because
there are people out there who can teach and are very effective
at it and can bring your interest to the forefront. Hence the
examples of Glen Watson and Vince Cucuzza. These were people
who could pique my interest, and it was always more fascinating
with their input. It became more interesting, and I enjoyed it.
Well, you've just described very well why I like to ask about
influential teachers, because I think you're absolutely right: I
think they can make or break a subject, and a lot of them have
attracted students into a specific field.
Arrowood: Absolutely true. The shade is either up or it's down, and you
can tell the people who are there to teach because they're
finishing their Ph.D. dissertation or whatever they're doing,
and they couldn't care less about the students. The shade's
down. You can tell, on the other side of the coin, about the
people that can explain things to you. I once had, I remember- -
this is a side issue--a problem in chemistry that 1 worked up,
and I did all the formulas right, and 1 did the calculations
correctly, but I slipped a decimal point at the very end. So
when I turned it in, Professor Watson gave it back to me and
took 50 percent off.
1 went to him and said, "You know, you've got to be out of
your mind! It doesn't seem fair. It's almost all correct! I
just made a decimal--" He cut me off and said, "All right, all
right, all right. That's fair. So what I'm going to do is I'd
like to borrow $100 from you today. Have you got $100? Could
you loan me that? I'll pay it back to you." I said, "All
right, so if I give you $100?" He said, "Yes, you give me $100,
and then tomorrow I'll pay you back $10. It's just a decimal
point. That's the only difference." Needless to say, I had
little with which to defend my original position.
And what he taught me, not just by that statement, but what
he was trying to show is that you have to look at something
logical. Is it a milliliter or is it an ocean? Is it logical?
And that's what's always worked for me in my life, that I may
not always know the precise answer, but I know it's either 1,000
gallons or 100,000 gallons of wine, or it's one gallon of wine
or 1,000 gallons. Is the answer going to come up where the
logic comes in? And that was taught to me, I think, very
He was an interesting guy. He worked on the Manhattan
Project, was an assistant in that. Worked at the Los Alamos
[Laboratories] as one of the chemists there during the war years
in development of the first and second atomic bombs. He was an
interesting guy and had a lot of interesting stories, and always
kept me fascinated. He was sort of like the uncle that I wish I
had, so to speak.
Hicke: Great teacher to have. He really sounds good.
Arrowood: Yes, definitely.
II DEVELOPING A KNOWLEDGE OF WINE
Summer Work at Korbel Champagne Cellars. 1965
Well, you mentioned that you had a summer job in a winery?
was this, and where was it?
Yes. July of '65 was my first year in the industry, and I got a
job at Korbel Champagne Cellars, and worked for a fellow by the
name of Allan Hemphill, who was actually the first graduate from
California] State University, Fresno, in enology. He worked
for Adolph Heck. As a matter of fact, he was married to
Adolph's daughter. Up until the time she was killed and a
little bit after that, Allan was the production manager at
Korbel Champagne Cellars. Because my father was a very good
friend of Adolph Heck's, I kept bugging Adolph every time he'd
come over, "Can 1 get a job in the winery? I'd sure like to
work in the laboratory. Can I get a job? Can I get a job?"
So he finally gave me a job through Allan. He just said,
"Go talk to Allan, and Allan will take care of you." Allan
said, "Well, I don't need anybody in the lab right now. But
what I really need is somebody in the cellar. If you'd like to
come work, we'll put you to work in the cellar." So I got a
chance to learn the wine business essentially fromthe first
job I had, I think, was cleaning out the men's room! And from
there to the bottling line, to champagne disgorging, and
bottling line, and riddling, and the whole shot. It gave me an
opportunity, I think, to learn the business from the ground up.
There is very little in our winery today that I can't do,
so I feel comfortable--! 'm a winemaker by trade, but in addition
I have the chemistry background so that if I have to do lab
work, I can do lab work. A lot of winemakers hate that aspect
of it, and a lot of chemists, of course, a lot of laboratory
people don't like the winemaking aspect of it. Well, I had a
chance to do all of those things, and if you're in the wine
business and understand that, as a winery owner--! eventually
became a winery owner- -it gives you a lot more. To me, a better
broad brush-stroke on the overall business aspect, so you really
can see what's going on, and you're not just focused on one
thing. 1 think it makes you a better manager.
Well, let me go back and ask, did you drink wine in your family
Arrowood: Oh, you know, we did a little, but I'm ashamed to say it was
mostly special occasions. My mother and father were of the
forties, fifties, and sixties, so during that time when you came
home from work, you usually had an Old-Fashioned or a Martini or
two. My parents weren't big drinkers, but that's what they
drank; if they wanted to relax, they'd have a Martini or an Old-
Fashioned, and there it was. Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving,
special occasions, birthdays and things, a bottle of wine would
come out , but not a tremendous amount of knowledge as far as
wine was concerned. So when I got in the business, there was
nothing in the family that led me to know anything about the
wine business per se. Everything I learned had to be taught to
me by either the hands-on experience or in school, or both.
Hicke: Did you acquire an interest in wine before you went to Fresno?
Arrowood: Yes, definitely. I was still going to school at Sacramento when
I was working at Korbel. I graduated in '68 from Cal State
Sacramento, and then '68- '69 went to Fresno and did my graduate
My interest in wine was really just from the experience
that I'd had at the Korbel winery, and my palate was far from
developed at that particular point but in fact was just in the
infant stages of developing. Because I had a chance to have
hands-on experience, when I did take my enology courses at
Fresno, I had a little bit of a leg up on many of the other
students because I'd already worked in the business, so I had an
understanding of what--I didn't know it all, but at least I had
an idea of what was going on, and it kind of tied in the
academic aspect of it to the practical aspect of it and made it
fit pretty well for me.
Hicke: You had really been interested in the business itself more than
in wine or wine-drinking?
Arrowood: No, I think to be honest with you, for the first part of it, I
was more interested in the laboratory, chemistry aspect of it.
The chemistry of winemaking seemed to be very fascinating to me.
But again, as you mature, I knew at one time that I might not
want to be in a laboratory all my life, so I'd better pay
attention to what production is all about. And in production,
you can express yourself more because winemaking is a
combination of both technology and art form. It's about 10
percent technology and about 90 percent art form. People who
are in the science aspect of it might like to reverse that, but
the fact of the matter is it really is an art form. You're
going to be much better off if you have the technology to make
it happen for you, and to understand, to sidestep some of the
pitfalls that people tend to step into on occasion, but you
really don't need that training to still make a fine bottle of
wine. It just helps.
Studies at California State University. Fresno. 1968-1969
Hicke: Who were some of the people you studied under at Fresno?
Arrowood: Fresno was one of those crazy places that at the time, in
enology anyway- -viticulture is a different story--but in the
enology aspects of it, a Professor Dick Norton was the fellow
that was in charge. Dick was a pretty easygoing professor. You
learned if you wanted to learn on your own. It was a very
practical, not so much academic-type aspect of the enological
learning experience, so much as it was just a hands-on, of
course, operational, small little winery. A winery that again
Allan Hemphill at Korbel helped set up there and put together.
Even at that time when Allan was going to school, I think- -Joe
Heitz was teaching there, if I'm not mistaken. You'd have to
check that with Allan Hemphill to have him give you some
But when I was there, it was Dick Norton who was just a
nice, crazy, easygoing guy. I'm not so sure he was any type of
a mentor or authority figure that I would want to mimic,
[laughs] He was just a little bit too loose for me in that
Probably the most influence of any person that I could say
at Cal State Fresno was Vince Petrucci, and Vince taught me
viticulture. I really felt that I picked up a lot more in the
viticulture end of things. The enology I picked up a good chunk
at Korbel under Allan's tutelage. Yes, there were more things
that I was interested in the enology aspect, but Petrucci was
one of these guys who could make it fun and interesting for you,
and the practical aspect of fanning your own little acre of
vineyard, and so on and so forth. That was very pleasant and I
enjoyed that. And it certainly helped me learn that aspect of
the wine business.
But Fresno is certainly now an academic force, with Dr.
Miiller and Fugelslang there and several other people that are
now intimately involved in the operation. Vince Petrucci, I
think, has just retired. He's a great guy, and 1 see him on
occasion at different functions. I've always had a great
admiration for him, because he's a real earthy, family-man guy.
Just very pleasant to be around. Always enjoyed him, always
dependable, would answer your question when you had a question,
had great stories, and I think that's what teaching is about.
Again, it's back to the old statement, "the relationship." If
you can relate your experiences, your life experience to
somebody else, that's how you get to "where does it apply?"
Where does it make sense? And that's part and parcel of why it
works. Professor Petrucci could do that.
Hicke: Okay. So he really introduced you to the viticulture side of
Arrowood: Yes, the viticultural end. But of course, what is winemaking
anyway? Winemaking is grapegrowing. You don't make great wines
from poor grapes. You can make poor wines from great grapes,
but you can't start with the raw material the way it is and
improve it. Winemaking begins in the soil, and that's what you
really have to pay attention to is where the grapes are grown;
the geologic and geographic considerations have to be taken into
account. You have to take into account crop levels and all the
other things that go along with it.
It's great if you say, "Well, I've got the grapes and now
I'm a winemaker." Well, in reality, the Good Lord- -nature- -
Mother Nature is the winemaker. You just act as a custodian.
Whatever 's there, whatever comes in that little round ball when
it's brought to the winery, that's what you've got to start
with. You cannot make it better. You can keep it the same, but
you can't make it any better.
Hicke: This is a reasonably new way of looking at things, isn't it?
Arrowood: Oh, I think I've always kind of looked at it that way.
Hicke: I'm not talking about you, but like decades ago--
Arrowood: Yes, they always thought, Well, we can manipulate this and do
that. But it's like anything else: you just have to believe
that if somebody is growing Merlot and they're bringing it in at
eight or nine tons to the acre versus somebody growing Merlot at
two to three to four tons for the acre, I promise you one will
have a lot more concentration than the other, and one will have
a lot more flavor interest than the other. They will both be
Merlot, and they'll both be wine, but one will just taste better
than the other. Again, this goes back to the fact that wine is
made in the vineyard. Another way to say it is that the
winemaker is obliged to make sure the vineyard yielding the
grapes--the complexity of flavors and texturesare all in
I think this was Petrucci's major theory, and I've always
believed it. It sounds a bit trite, and people don't always
follow it but the simple theory is that a given vine on a given
piece of ground in a given year can give you or will yield, a
given quantity of quality fruit; period. It's a known quantity.
In other words, if the vine's energy can be channeled to produce
five pounds or seven pounds or fifteen pounds of great fruit,
and you try to push that more than that, you'll get more fruit,
you can do that, but you won't get more quality fruit.
Hicke: So was he interested in trellising and
Arrowood: Oh, absolutely. I think that's where- -unfortunately, I was at
school at the time when trellising was just starting to be
experimented with. So most of that information that I picked up
came from within the industry, which is fine. The wine industry
is a continual learning classroom every day. But that was just
starting to be looked at, and I think he was certainly in the
forefront of that research and of that development.
Hicke: Were there any other summer jobs that you had that are of
Arrowood: No. Before I went to work for Korbel, I had a summer job in
Santa Rosa working in a pharmacy, a couple of pharmacies. Not
that that's any big deal. My first job when I was a kid in
Santa Rosa was at Empire Drug Store in downtown Santa Rosa.
God, that was so many years ago. That was owned by John Carico
[spells]. Then that shop was bought out bythey moved a Rexall
Drug Company right next to the five-and-dime there on Fourth
Street. Then it was bought by Merle Bartel [spells]. I don't
know what happened to Merle; I think he's moved someplace else
now. But there were only a couple of drugstores right there on
Fourth Street, which was Farmer Brothers and Empire Drug. I
used to do a lot of the deliveries and that kind of stuff, a
stockboy; if you will.
But I always enjoyed the pharmacy aspect, because of the
chemistry connection, and I always enjoyed that. That was
always fascinating to me. You could look up on the shelf--!
still to this day, think back on it but I could go down the
list and look at the drugs and tell you what each one was used
for. I'd ask the pharmacist, he'd tell me, and I'd remember it.
Totally useless information, but just things that were
fascinating to me as a kid. "What kind of a drug is this, and
how's it made, and blah blah?" And I worked for people that
were always nice enough to share that information.
Hicke: This is a personal opinion, but that makes more sense to me than
memorizing baseball statistics.
Arrowood: I suppose! [laughter] Yes, it probably does. But again,
typical Fergie's Facts: unless you go into pharmacy or
medicine, it's probably not very useful to you. But it was
always fascinating to me.
Hicke: Okay. Anything else in the way of a summer job?
Arrowood: No, that was pretty much it. The influence with that.
Hicke: But you learned a lot at Korbel.
Arrowood: Yes. I think that piqued my interest to the point of thinking,
Well, there's good application of chemistry here in the wine
business, and that part is fascinating. It seemed to be a
relatively--enology; although it's a very old science, it was a
relatively new, modern science, modern technology science at the
time. So I said, Gee, I can get in on the ground floor of this
and pick up a few things, so that was why I think I stayed
interested in it.
Hicke: What year were you there at Korbel?
Arrowood: I was there from 1965 to 1968. I left in late '68.
Hicke: Oh, I thought this was a summer job. Or it started out as a--
Arrowood: Exactly. What I did was I worked during the summertime and also
part-time when I was going to school. They were good enough to
let me work full-time in the summer, and then during my session
at school, whether it was at Fresno or Santa Rosa Junior College
or Sacramento, I'd drive home on the weekends and work there on
the weekends. It was great, and I had income coming in.
Hicke: Yes, and you got a lot of experience. I didn't realize you were
there for that long a time. Okay, so in '68 you graduated.
Arrowood: Yes, and then I stayed at Korbel for a short period of time, and
then I decided to go to Fresno. I was still working at Korbel,
working in the summertime and then coming back on weekends.
It's a long drive from Fresno, but I did many of those trips,
and put a lot of miles on my old Ford. But when you're younger,
it doesn't seem to be as much trouble, I don't know. As you get
older, it must be a little less pleasing.
Hicke: Let me just turn the tape over here.
III EARLY WORK EXPERIENCE IN WINE INDUSTRY
Continuing at Korbel. then to Italian Swiss Colony
Arrowood: Once I left Fresno, I felt that when I went to work full-time
for Korbel, I had been doing a lot of different things. I was
married at the time, to my first wife.
Hicke: What was her name?
Arrowood: Her name was Allison [spells]. Not to be confused with my wife
now: her name is Alis [spells]. Quite often, it's kind of
weird how these things go, because my wife's first husband's
name was Richard. So she could never make a mistake. She could
never call me the wrong name. I've never called my wife
Allison, but a lot of times she'll get mail that's addressed to
So we were married in September of '68, and then we moved
to Guerneville. Actually, finished my work at Fresno, then from
Fresno moved back to Guerneville, which was at the end of '69,
first part of '70. I don't remember all the details, and it's
not that important, but there wasn't enough money coming in from
Korbel, and I had a great offer from Joe Vercelli at Italian
Swiss Colony, so I took a job there as the chief production
chemist working under a fellow by the name of Bob Del Sarto
I worked there for--oh, gosh, the best part of a year.
Then I left Italian Swiss, and my first job really that gave me
any chance to be somewhat more creative was with Rod Strong at
Sonoma Vineyards. I joined them in 1970 and stayed there until
May of '74, when I left and started with Chateau St. Jean with
the Merzoian Brothers and Ken Sheffield as its first employee.
Hicke: Before we get to that, tell me some of the things that you did
first at Italian Swiss. What were they doing and what you were
Arrowood: Production control. I ran the laboratory that did all the
testing and analysis in the table wine department; we did the
backup analysis for the base wines for the charmant bulk process
champagnes; and then also I got a fair amount of experience in
the brandy operation. That was very, very good knowledge that I
picked up. It didn't necessarily help me further my career but
a chance as an enologist to work in a brandy operation,
rectification, distillation, and ameliorization was, to me, a
very good learning experience. I think a lot of enologists
today have no idea how brandy is produced and so on and so
forth. I got a chance to pick that up.
The charmant bulk process of sparkling wine production was,
I felt, important to learn. I got a chance to learn both the
small operations and the large operations and get to see it from
many different angles . That helps , and I think that I had a
better, more well-rounded education on that basis by working in
different venues. Korbel was sizeable, but not the size it is
today. Italian Swiss Colony, of course, is now basically
defunct and closed (actually, Chateau Souverain--Wine World
still runs an operation there). But at that time, it was a very
large operation, multi-million-gallon operation. So it gave me
a chance to pick up a fair amount of education in producing
wines in obviously larger quantity.
Hicke: Korbel was obviously using methode champenoise?
Arrowood: Yes. All bottle fermented, all methode champenoise, versus the
charmant bulk process. So one is a real quick turnover process,
you are looking at two to three weeks in fermentation,
filtration, bottling, whereas Korbel would take a year or more
in the bottle. You got a chance to see what the difference was
in the quality and type of product produced. But at the time
when I was fairly young, I was just happy going from Korbel to
Italian Swiss just because there was a fair amount more money
offered, and although I wanted to learn more from it, it was
like anything else, you--
Hicke: You've got to eat.
Arrowood: You need to live. So it did seem to help a little bit.
Joining Rodney Strong Vineyards
Arrowood: When I joined Rod Strong at Sonoma Vineyards, I think Rod gave
me a chance to really develop a turning point in my career as
far as the idea of what quality production was all about. Rod
was and is a very talented winemaker, and what he needed,
because he was also trying to grow his business and develop his
grapegrowing operation and vineyards and so on and so forth, was
somebody to come in and really handle the production aspect of
the operation, both from a technical standpoint of view and
practical standpoint. I got a chance to do that with him from
'70 to '74.
They had a few problems at that time. Again, this is where
the pitfalls are, if you understand sanitation, for instance,
and what it takes to bottle a sterile product, especially if
you're bottling wines that have a small amount of residual sugar
in them. What they were having happen at the time was a fair
amount of their bottles were re- ferment ing. They'd bottle the
wine, and the damn thing would re-ferment with spoilage yeast,
because they weren't sterilizing the wine or the equipment
properly. The fellow that they had running itI'll choose not
to use his namebut he was a total boob, just a total idiot. I
came in and had a chance to really fix the problem.
Hicke: You spotted that problem?
Arrowood: Right away, and said, "Okay, here's how we can do it," and fixed
it for him. Unfortunately, by the time I'd got there, they had
already bottled about 25,000, 30,000 cases of wine, all of which
had to be cork-pulled and dumped and reprocessed, which was very
expensive. But we didn't have another case of that problem
occurring again to my knowledge. I've never had a bottle of
wine spoil on me since that time and I've actually never had a
bottle of wine spoil or re-ferment in the bottle that wasn't
supposed to--vis-a-vis champagne, etc.
That's where the technology comes in. The art form is
important; you really had better understand it, but you also
have to know where are the pitfalls, so the schooling helped me
a lot there. I went through the whole bottling system and said,
"Okay, take all this apart." They had bottling machines and the
filler, the damn thing was held to the base with this leather
gasketacted like a sponge in soaking up micro-organisms but
they said, "Well, we sterilize it with 140-degree water."
I said, "Well, look, in 140-degree water, yeast just it's
almost like a hot tub for them, and they love that. They just
get stronger. You need at least 175- , 180- , preferably, degree
water to sterilize the system, and more like 190 is ideal." And
plus the fact that the way the things were put together, as I
said, there was a big old piece of--I remember looking at this
thing. There was a leather gasket in the middle of the filler,
and when you took this thing off, I could have started the
harvest for the whole world with this leather gasket, it was so
loaded with yeast. You could never sterilize it. And of
course, every time you put liquid in it, it would just re-
inoculate everything that came in contact with it.
So we got rid of that, put a Teflon gasket in it, and it
took care of it for them. All of a sudden, there was no
problem. So they thought it was magic. I just thought it was
Hicke: Well, it was magic for them.
Arrowood: Yes. So that worked for several years. Rod and I have stayed
close friends to date. He's a great guy, and of course has a
tremendous amount of talent and sophistication. Rod's
background, I don't know if you've had a chance to ever
Hicke: I have interviewed him.
Arrowood: Okay, you know what he is.
Hicke: Yes. He's a fabulous guy.
Arrowood: Very articulate, and just a super guy. I had an interesting
tenure with him, because he helped me mature a little bit at the
time. I've never forgotten that. He was a very, very good
influence on me.
Hicke: Yes. He seems to be a very well-liked person.
Arrowood: Very much so. Very much so.
Hicke: Well, that was during the time also when there was a little dip
in the wine business, wasn't there?
Arrowood: Yes. That was when the slide started. Of course, Rod,
unfortunately at that time, was just getting ready to go public
with the company, it was in the early seventies I think.
Unfortunately, he got mixed in with some real wheeler-dealers.
One of his partners I still have a lot of respect for today was
Peter Friedman. He and Peter, I know, got along very well. But
there were a couple of other guys involved who I really think
were not out to see that the operation was successfully built.
So just before I left Sonoma Vineyards, I was promoted to
vice president of production. And for a kidlet's see, at that
time I would have been twenty-five--it was a big move for me. I
was very pleased that that had happened as it gave me my first
introduction into the wine business world.
IV WINEMAKER FOR CHATEAU ST. JEAN
Arrowood : That gave me the stepping stone so that when the chance came to
work with the owners of Chateau St. Jean, that was a natural
next step. Now, that kind of happened in a very funny way. I
met the owners through a--as a matter of fact, how this all
happened is my closest friend, my best friend, Dr. John Renfree
[spells], who delivered both my daughters. He's a local doctor
here in town. In 1970, my wife Allison was pregnant with our
first daughter, Holly, and she was going to another doctor in
town. He was out of town, when she went into labor, so I took
her to Memorial Hospital, and on call for him was a Dr. Renfree.
So John delivered Holly.
We just got talking. He wanted to know what business I was
in, and I told him the wine business. Oh, my goodness, he was
so excited, and he asked me, "Have you ever heard of a wine
called Lambrusco?" And I thought, Oh, God. [laughter] Jeez.
"Yeah, I have heard of that." I said, "Yes, it is a great wine,
but we can do better than that."
To make a long story short, one thing developed into the
next, and John said, "You know, you're a young guy," so I was
twenty-five, twenty-six at the time. He said, "You're a young
guy coming up in the world. Why don't you join me at the 20-30
Club? I'm a member there." He just had come into town,
practicing physician, an OB/GYN--
Is this Sonoma now?
This is all in Santa Rosa. So I went to what was then a
restaurant called the Black Forest, and again this was in 1970.
I Joined John as a guest at lunch. John unfortunately had a
delivery to make, so he was a little late coming, and I met
another fellow whom he'd set up to greet me, a guy by the name
of Drew Juvinall [spells]. Drew was one of these outgoing, very
fascinating guys, I mean, he'd make you crazy, Justvery funny,
he had a great sense of humor, and a nice guy.
So we started talking, "What do you do?" I told him I was
a winemaker. "Oh, do you knowI've got some good friends down
in the San Joaquin Valley. They're going to build a winery
someday." I said, "Oh, really?" He said, "Yeah, named
Merzoians [spells], Bob and Ed Merzoian, and an old friend of
mine, Ken Sheffield. They've got a large table grape and wine
grape operation down in the San Joaquin Valley. You ought to
meet them someday." I said, "Sure, I'd like to do that." Well,
one day he called me up at the office. "Can you get the day off
tomorrow?" I said, "Possibly. What did you have in mind?" He
said, "Do you want to fly down to the San Joaquin Valley?" I
said, "Well, let's see, I've got a San Francisco airport flight
schedule--" "Oh, no," he said, "we've got a local private plane
up here, we'll fly on down."
So that's what we did. We flew on down to the San Joaquin
Valley and he introduced me to Bob, Ed, and Ken- -Bob and Ed
Merzoian and Ken Sheffield. To make a long story a little
Sure. That's what we're here for.
They were interested in building a "world-class" winery. I've
heard these stories before. I said, "Well, okay, when you get
to that point, let me know." So I went down there a second time
to visit with them, and they wanted to know if I'd be interested
in joining their company if they developed a winery. I said,
"Well, perhaps." But first they had to find a piece of property
up here in Sonoma County.
So they had Drew, who was in the real estate business at
the time, look for the property for them.
They weren't going to make it in the San Joaquin Valley?
No. They wanted to come up here and grow grapes up here. They
sold all their grapes primarily to Gallo and to Setrakian and to
a few other places in the San Joaquin Valley.
How this thing kind of came together is that they found
Drew eventually in 1973 found a piece of property called the
Goff [spells] Estate. The old Goff Estate is where Chateau St.
Jean sits right now. It is the chateau of Chateau St. Jean. So
they made an offer on the property with contingencies, which was
promptly rejected by the court because it was a trust sale. At
that time it was 269 acres of property, and they wanted to buy
the whole thing, and I think they offered--! forget what the
heck it was--the asking price was around $475,000, and I think
they offered $465,000 for it, thereabouts, but it had too many
contingencies on it.
So I guess they put their heads together. The table grape
business was doing okay, but it wasn't doing as well as they
hoped it would do. They managed to put enough financing
together to buy the piece of property for an all cash sale. It
was kind of funny how this thing came down, because Ezra Goff,
who is still alive, to my knowledge, lives above the chateau, is
kind of a funny old guy. He tried to stop the sale. He wanted
to sell it to somebody else. He came into court the day it was
supposed to go through, and he said, "I've got another offer."
The judge says, "Well, let's see it." He says, "Well, it's
verbal." The judge says, "Well, that isn't going to do it. If
you can get the offer in here in the next couple of hours, I'll
stay the execution of the sale. Otherwise it's a cash deal."
Wells Fargo I think was acting as trustee for the estate.
To make a long story again even longer, it got fairly
twisty and turny. Ezra couldn't come up with the actual sale,
but as it turned out-- [telephone interruption] The judge sold
it, but Ezra, one of the deals he was trying to make was that
the Smothers brothers were looking at the estate, wanted to turn
it into sort of like a tennis ranch or something, and Dick and
Tom were taking a look at it.
Well, as luck would have it, my father was in the title
business. He had been a loan officer, but he was an escrow
officer and vice president of Northwestern Title Company at the
time. He did the escrow work for Pat Paulsen when Pat bought
his vineyard up in Cloverdale, and my dad was introduced to Pat
Paulsen. Well, of course, Pat Paulsen and the Smothers brothers
go way, way back.
As it happened, through Pat Paulsen I met Tom and Dick
Smothers and we've been friends (as a matter of fact, I make
their wine for them) with them for years.
Yes, I noticed that on some of your labels it says Smothers
Brothers. I'm glad to get this story.
That's how the story kind of came about. I see Dick Smothers on
occasion. Dick lives in Virginia, but Tom lives right here in
Kenwood, so I see or hear from Tom and his wife, Marcy, usually
a couple of times a month. They didn't have the cash to get the
chateau in one piece, the Merzoians did and got the chateau and
decided to build the winery from there.
So the Smothers brothers lost out.
They lost out in that "particular" deal. There was another
person in the bidding too, but they couldn't put it together.
So later on, we became friends. It Just happened several months
after the deal was consummated.
Once the Merzoians owned the property, they went ahead to
proceed to build the winery. At that timethat was 1974, the
sale took place in October of '73--so early '74, they came to me
when I was still at Sonoma Vineyards with Rod Strong and they
said, "We want you to come to work as our winemaker." "I just
got promoted to vice president," I remember saying, "so I think
I'll probably stay here. I don't know if I want to leave."
They said, "Well, maybe we'll go to Europe and pick up a
European winemaker." I said, "Well, if you want some help, I'll
be happy to help you with anybody you select, if you want me to
talk to them and see what their knowledge is." I guess they
looked around and they couldn't find the person they really
wanted. They came back to me and said, "Look. What do you
want?" I said, "What do you mean, what do I want?" It was one
of those things. "We really want to have you for our first
employee, the winemaker here," and so on and so forth.
So we made a deal, and I left Sonoma Vineyards, and with
Rod's blessing; Rod understood and was happy for me--I don't
know about happy to see me go, but he was happy for me.
Let me stop you just a minute,
Why did they want a European
Arrowood: Well, they were thinking that might work better. A lot of
European winemakers come over, and they were trying to be as
avant-garde as possible to try to really get somebody thatthey
wanted to build a world-class winery to make world-class wines,
and that was their whole reason of developing the new winery to
be known as Chateau St. Jean.
You've got to remember that the Merzoians liked to do
things in a big way, but as splashy as they sometimes were, they
were very good people, very nice people. Ed's passed away;
Bob's still alive, and of course Ken's still alive. (He lives
in Florida and we talk on occasion.) But they really wanted to
do something first class, and they wanted to develop a premier
class operation, about 30,000-, 35,000-case winery. It is now
approaching three quarters of a million cases right now, but
anyway, that was the original plan.
A European winemaker would have prestige and background and
things like that?
Exactly, exactly. That was their idea. So I don't know why
they didn't get one; I never did find out the reason behind it,
but they wanted to know what it would take to make me join them,
so we worked out a deal, hammered out a contract, and went on
from there. I joined them officially May of '74 as the first
What was your title, just out of curiosity?
It was vice president /winemaster.
And I've been interested: what's a winemaster as opposed to a
Experience, more than anything. So at that time, I was probably
more a vice president /winemaker. My experience was directly in
the business five or six years, so I still would have been a
winemaker per se, but that's the title that I had, so it was
winemaster. Five years from then, no problem, because by that
time we'd started to perfect some new ideas and things that put
Chateau St . Jean on the map and made it the white wine winery
force to deal with in California. But I think the difference-
like here, for instance, my title is president and winemaster.
We also have a winemaker here who works under me, and he is also
the general manager of the cellar and such. I am still a hands-
on winemaker; we're both winemakers, but--
I can see, you have a winemaker working for
Yes, exactly. So if an operation had one, two or three
winemakers, it would be two or three winemakers and one
What did you start out to do there, and what were their goals?
I think their goals again were to producethe old statement--
singularly recognizable world-class wines.
How much direction did they give you? Which wines to make and--
Really very little. I worked pretty closely with Ken Sheffield.
Ken was, of all the people involved in this operation, the most
important of any of them. Ken Sheffield was Ed's brother-in-
law: two brothers, Bob and Ed Merzoian, and brother-in-law Ken
Sheffield, and Ed's wife was Jean Merzoian, the "Jean" of
Chateau St. Jean.
Hicke: Ah, okay.
Arrowood: And she's still alive.
1 worked much closer with Ken, I think, than just about
anybody else in the operation. He was a conceptualizer. I
think he conceptualized the idea of Chateau St. Jean with Bob
and Ed Merzoian. He was the one that put together a lot of the
wheels to make things go. He worked with the bankers, trying to
get financial support, and at the time, I've got to tell you,
this was one of the most difficult and challenging points in
time to ever try to borrow a penny to build a winery.
Hicke: Yes, that was right when the banks were turning everybody down.
Arrowood: Nobody wanted to do anything, and they turned everybody down,
including the Merzoians. It wasn't until, finally it was First
California Bank, I think--! want to say Security Pacific but I
think it was First California Bank that actually they got their
loan from, or California Bank; that's not critical. If you want
those details, I'm sure we can get them; Ken's memory may be
better than mine. We were on the verge of --we had the property,
we started planting the vineyard, we were working on a very
narrow budget .
One of the problems was that they were sending money from
the Valley operation up to here to finance the Sonoma County
operation. The banks didn't like it. B of A [Bank of America],
who was dealing with them, was just giving them nothing but
trouble about this. They were also dealing with PCA, Production
Credit Association, Farm Credit at the time, and a lot of these
things were happening that weren't working.
It wasn't until that first bank came in and helped things
along, and then they finally got in with Equitable and Equitable
gave them some financing that they needed to make the thing
really roll. But up until that time, it was an on-again, off-
again type of operation. They never missed my paycheck; I
always got my check, and they always honored what they had to do
for me, but I admit it was a bit uneasy at times.
We really went through some--I think back to some of the
fun times my first wife and I have had in this operation many
years ago when the banks wouldn't talk to us and were really
putting the prongs to us, and I know that, when I think back
about it, the Merzoians probably had to live that same hell that
we had to live, only in their own way. They did some things
they probably shouldn't have done, but they had a love to do
this thing and they wanted to do this operation, and the banks
They finally got the financing they needed. We built the
first phase of the winery, started in 1975, and completed.
Okay. I'd like to hear a little bit more about that,
involved with that?
From the beginning, yes. I basically worked from the original
construction, the first brick and mortar that went into Chateau
St. Jean until I left in 1990, when all the major construction
had been done at that particular point in time. I worked with
the architect and engineer on this, and the architect was a
fellow by the name of Richard Keith of Keith and Associates in
Santa Rosa. (He was actually an engineer with architects
working for him.)
Had he built wineries before?
Yes, he had. He'd done Chappellet; let's see, who else had he
done? Oh, there were probably a couple of others that he did
some work on that I don't recall on the top of my head.
I think he did do Firestone, yes, he did.
I just interviewed him.
Oh, okay, yes.
Recognized the name.
Yes, Richard Keith, he's off in Hawaii someplace doing- -he was
kind of a wheeler-dealer. So we started out, the first drawings
that were done, it was the grand--! mean, this thing was bigger
than the Taj Mahal, plus. So they had to kind of pare it down a
little bit. For the first five years of operation, we had no
tower like you see today. It wasn't until September of '80 that
the second phase was completed where the tower went in, and the
rest of the winery you see of Chateau St. Jean the way it is
today was built. We had this kind of wall sticking up, with all
the tanks on the outside, and the barrel room was enclosed. The
chateau, of course, was built in the twenties, so that was
there, but no offices. All the offices were temporarily in the
chateau. We worked under a one -step-at-a- time type scenario.
But it worked.
Making the Wines
Hicke: And you were aiming for 30,000, is that right?
Arrowood: Yes, 30,000, 35,000 cases, something like that. In 1980, we
were probably at about 100,000 cases coming out of the
operation. But it was a successful operation. Some of the
ideas, for instance, the vineyard-designated [label] idea, that
concept--! 'd love to tell you it was my own, but it was Ken
Sheffield's. Ren's idea it was, and he came to me and said,
"What would it take to make the best--" I'm paraphrasing this
because I have to recall it, but he wanted to know what it would
take to make the best wines. I said, "You've got to start with
the best grapes."
"Okay, assuming you've got the best grapes, how does that
work?" I said, "Well, you get the best grapes from the
different vineyards around and you blend." He said, "What if
you didn't blend them?" I said, "Well, then you get the
fingerprint and individuality of each vineyard, just like they
do in Europe." He said, "Ah-hah. That's what I'm trying to get
at. What if we did that?"
I said, "Well, it would cost a fortune." He said, "I
didn't ask you how much it would cost." He asked if I could
make the best wines that way. I said, "Yes." He said, "I'll
worry about getting the finances. You build the best wines you
can. Find the best vineyards, build the best wines from the
best vineyards. We'll make this a success." That's one of the
reasons they were able to sell it for $40-plus million, because
that idea had caught on. We were on top, Chateau St. Jean was
on top for many, many, many years. At one time before I left,
probably a couple of years before I left, we had won more
medals, more gold medals, than any winery in California.
That brag is not because I'm trying to inflate my ego or
anything, but it is a fact that we had probably a collection of
the finest estates and vineyards in California to deal with.
Hicke: Did you buy all the grapes, or were some of them--
Arrowood: I would say that up until the time I left, we were probably
buying 75 to 80 percent. At one time we were buying 100
percent, but we did grow eventually, although the chateau
produced somewhere around 20 percent of the total production.
Allan Hemphill. President of Chateau St. Jean
Hicke: You had some vineyards on the land?
Arrowood: Yes. And then we branched out. As a matter of fact, it kind of
tied Allan Hemphill into the picture, who I worked for at
Korbel. The Merzoians hired him as president of Chateau St.
Jean in late '77, so we got together again. We had always been
friends; we had a pretty good relationship all along. Allan and
I worked together until after the Japanese bought Chateau St.
Hicke: When was that?
Arrowood: That was Halloween, October 31st, 1984.
Hicke: Oh, well. We don't want to get there quite yet.
Arrowood: Yes, we'll get back into that. We'll come to that eventually.
Hicke: How and who decided what kind of wines you were going to make?
Arrowood: They pretty much left that to me until Allan joined. Allan and
I then worked together on trying to refocus and reposition the
winery. At that time, we had a lot ofalthough I didn't
necessarily agree with some of the things Allan was doing, I
think it was right for the time, because we were doing about 35,
40 percent red and about 60 to 65 percent white. And because of
the great turnover, the quicker turnover time for whites than
reds, Allan's idea was to get better cash flow in this company;
we need to back off on the reds and focus more on the whites.
As a winemaker, my main concern was to make wine. I didn't
have the knowledge of what we were doing as far as financing
things, and that wasn't important to me. (Although it well
should have been.) I wanted to be a winemaker. See, that's how
you grow in this thing. When you have your own business, you
learn real fast what it is to run your own business and what
finance is all about.
Yes, but that's also what he told you. He told you you were
supposed to be in charge of the wines, not to
Arrowood: Yes, that was the deal, and that was the thing. So the
Merzoians brought Allan on, and Allan although the good news
about Allan, why it was so nice to work with Allan, besides
being friends, I think the thing to remember here is Allan was
the first graduate in enology from Cal State Fresno. He was the
very first. So when I went up to Allan and said, "Hey, I need
some more barrels," it wasn't, "What do you need barrels for?"
"Okay. You're going to do more Chardonnay? What do you want to
do here? What do you think about this?" I could talk to Allan
about anythinghe could relate to me and I with him. It wasn't
talking to somebody in finance. Allan very much understands
finance, but the good thing about Allan was that he understood
production, and he understood this in such a way that he and I
could communicate very effectively.
We probably had the best relationship between a
winemaker/vice president and president that's probably ever been
in this industry, as far as I'm concerned, because we were both
coming from much the same direction. Allan's a very level
headed, easygoing guy, and if I had a problem, I'd come talk to
Allan. It was just that way. It was sort of a father-figure-
type scenario, but not so much father figure as perhaps big
brother. That really worked out very nicely for me. When I was
a kid still going to junior college, typical beer-drinking
parties, I'd come home late once too often and
Arrowood: I came home one day a little bit late and the next daythis had
happened too many times all my clothes were out on the front
porch. Dad just said, "Hey, it's time to get the hell out,
kid," and frankly that was the best thing that ever happened to
me. Well, I had no place to go. Allan was kind enough to take
me in. His wife, Richie Ann Heck, unfortunately in December had
been killed in an automobile accident. That was December of
1965, I think. It was indeed 1965.
Allan was kind enough to take me in, and I lived with him
at Santa Nella Winery, right above the winery, for several
months, while I was still working at Korbel Winery.
In any event, we became fast friends, and I had and still
have a lot of respect for him. Of course, the good news there
was I wasn't even twenty-one at the time- -I was twenty years
old so it was kind of neat, because if I wanted a beer, I'd get
a beer. It was just there. If I wanted a glass of wine, I had
a glass of wine. There wasn't this terrible stigma attached to
underage drinking at the timeplus getting drunk was not what
it was about.
I also had a lot of respect for not drinking and driving,
because although 1 was no perfect person by any stretch, I
didn't think that was very chic. So I treated it fairly
carefully. Drinking was never made to be a mysterious thing.
It was never forbidden in my folks' home, because they thought
if you wanted a drink, as my dad would say, "Have a drink at our
house here. You want a glass of wine, you want a beer, you want
a drink, have a drink. But if you're going to drink, you're not
driving the car." So we always had a healthy respect for that
aspect. Allan continued that with me, I think. Gave me a
little dose of much needed maturity.
So when Allan came on board at Chateau St. Jean, to get
back to that, the adjustment was probably far less, because I
had been running the operation more or less by myself, and when
Ken and the Merzoians brought Allan in, it was good. They could
have brought some other person in that would have not worked,
the chemistry would have been bad. But with Allan, it was very
good chemistry, so it worked very well. We worked together as a
team. It was as good a scenario as I could have hoped for.
The one problem was that the Merzoians and Ken Sheffield
lived in Visalia and Porterville, respectively, and obviously
that's a long distance from the winery. They leased a
Beechcraft King Air turbojet, so they could fly back and forth
between Sonoma County and Visalia and Porterville. That plane
also, I think, is what contributed to making Chateau St. Jean a
market force, because what I used to do was: although we had
great wines, our sales force was one of the owner's sons, and he
was a nice kid but, you know, drank Pepsi most of the time, and
really didn't pick up on a lot ofhe's a nice kid, I don't mean
to make it sound like belittling him, but he just
Hicke: Yes, but he wasn't knowledgeable about wines?
Arrowood: Not terribly. So I kind of had to deal with that problem up
here. But the thing that was difficult was the fact that we had
great wines, but had to get them to market. In those days, it
was really one-on-one type selling. So what I would do is work
during the day, and then if I had winemaker dinners in Los
Angeles, the plane would come and pick me up, fly on down, do a
winemaker dinner promotion, retailer, restaurateur, trade
tasting, whatever it was, and then could have me right back late
that night, so the next morning I'd be back at the operation
again. It really worked very well. I think that probably in a
year, I put in better than 400 hours in that plane, which is a
Were you doing everything? Marketing?
Up until Allan got there, yes, a little combination of
everything . You bet , market support and all that . That ' s how
we built the brand. I mean, you'd like to think things are a
one-man show. They're never a one-man show. I had some very,
very able-bodied people, and one of the people that was with me
early on, the first person I hired, was Barney Fernandez, who's
the viticulturist for Ferrari-Carano [Winery] now. Together
Barney and I were a very, very good team, a very good team.
Barney is also a very goodwe don't see each other very much
any more- -but was also a very, very good friend. I've always
respected Barney a great deal.
Hicke: What kind of wines did you start out making?
Arrowood: It was interesting. We actually did our first harvest in 1974,
but the winery wasn't built until "75, so how did we do that?
Well, what we did was to lease some space; Rod Strong and I got
along pretty well still, so I asked Rod, "Hey, could we lease
some space and make wine here at Sonoma?" "Sure." So we worked
out a deal and worked our first harvest as a custom crush. Our
primary wines then were a Cabernet, Chardonnay, and the wine
that probably put Chateau St. Jean on the map: a Select Late
Harvest Riesling, 1974.
Hicke: How did you decide on that one?
Arrowood: Just by pure complete luck. I would love to tell you it was
great planning on my part, but--. The botrytis was there. The
vineyard that had the fruit on it is the old River Road Vineyard
that at that time was owned as a partnership, I believe, not the
least of which partner was Marvin Shanken, who of course now has
the Wine Spectator. So I knew Marvin way back when, before he
had attained all the fame and fortune that he's now enjoying.
That's basically how that came about.
He had some fruit [Riesling] that had a lot of botrytis on
it, plus the fact that Robert Young at Robert Young Vineyards, I
remember, brought in some Riesling that had all these moldy
berries, and he was just shaking his head saying, "I told the
guys to sort this out." I said, "Sort it out? How much more of
this do you have?" "Well, I've got a whole vineyard full of
it." I said, "Would you be interested in picking this
separate?" He said, "For what?" I said, "Just to bring it into
the winery." He said, "Well, okay, if you really want it. You
just want to pay my picking costs or what?" I said, "No, we'll
buy the fruit from you." I don't think he believed I was
playing with a "full deck" --yet he did bring in the fruit- -
perhaps just to humor me.
So I said, "Look, I don't know a lot about botrytis, but
I've been reading a lot, and this is botrytis cinerea. It looks
just like the pictures, this is what it is, it tastes right, I
honestly believe it's botrytis."
Hicke: And he didn't know it?
Arrowood: Well, nobody paid attention to it. Nobody knew what it was all
about here in California. Wente [Bros, winery] had made a
little bit of Spatlese and Auslese in 1973 which worked pretty
well but the wine didn't really pick up a tremendous amount of
press. They were probably one of the first to do it. Myron
Nightingale had made the premier Semillon with the botrytis;
flats of Semillon grapes that he put out and sprayed botrytis
spores over the top and let it grow in these chambers. But
outside, naturally occurring in California, you always just
called it "bunch rot." There was a lot of bunch rot, but there
was also botrytis, a lot of botrytis out there.
So I got Bob to bring in a couple of bins of this stuff,
and I remember he and Jim just were saying, "God, pretty bad."
Hicke: Scratching their heads.
Arrowood: Scratching their heads. This was "74. So we managed to
convince them to bring in a little bit to us, again a little
more. Actually, this whole thing kind of started, if you really
want to go back--
Hicke: Yes, this is a great story.
Arrowood: --to '71, '72, I remember seeing some of these little bunches
that I'd taken off the grapes. It was in '73 that at Sonoma
Vineyards I'd made a little of this with Bob's grapes, but we
had enoughremember Robert Balzer wrote about it. We had "the
audacity" to charge $4.50 for a bottle of this Riesling, very
expensive! Even in 1973 that was a substantial price for a
bottle of wine.
Hicke: Was that mostly profit?
Arrowood: At that time, you were only paying a couple of hundred bucks a
ton for the fruit, but it was still just phenomenally expensive.
Well, we finally did make a little tiny bit and it got written
up very nicely, but nothing really happened. It wasn't until
the 1974 Chateau St. Jean, Robert Young and River Road
Vineyard's Riesling- -were combined, we madethe actual combined
sugar was an outrageous 27 [Brix] sugar.
Well, when you think back--as compared to what we do today
we usually bring the fruit in at 40-plus sugar- -we didn't know
it then, but it was a revelation in the California wine
industry. So we made this botrytis wine and struggled to get it
fermented, and it was fruity, rich, and complex, and it was so
wonderful and lovely. So we sterile filtered it, and bottled it
up at Sonoma Vineyards, '74 vintage.
The Merzoians said, "Okay. We're getting the money
together for the winery, so you need to come over. We're going
to go to Europe in 1974, November of '74; come over and join us
in Europe. We're going to find the equipment. You buy it over
there and then we'll have it shipped back."
Hicke: It was going to be European equipment?
Arrowood: Yes, they wanted me to come over and buy it, which I did. We
bought the finest European equipmentbottling lines from
Germany, wine presses from Germany, centrifuges from Germany,
and barrels from France. The tanks were made locally by Santa
Rosa Stainless Steel. They were made at Sonoma Vineyards,
because that was where Santa Rosa Stainless Steel had their
tanks set up; they didn't have their building out at the Sonoma
city airport at that time. But the filters and the bottling
equipment and the pumps, the presses, and all that, were all
Hicke: What did you get?
Arrowood: Seitz- -bought a Seitz bottling line from Bad Rreuznach, Germany.
Centrifuges from West Jalia in Germany and wine presses from
Willmes Press Company in Bensheim, Germany.
So we went to Europe. We had bottled the late harvest
Riesling in October, late October, early November. And just
before I took off I decided, Well, I'll just pull a bottle of
wine and see how it's doing. Because I'm pretty excited about
the wine, and the Merzoians are going to be over in Europe,
maybe I'll bring a bottle over, even though the labels haven't
been made yet. We were still working on the St. Jean label
design, 1 was working with Northwestern Graphics, which at that
time was called Bertram and Milner. We had looked at a lot of
things, and didn't like most of them, but we were just starting
to get the shape of the Chateau St. Jean label and so on and so
forth to develop.
So I pulled the cork on a bottle of wine, poured it in a
glass, and smelled it. No nose, no flavor- -the wine was
dreadful. 1 thought, Oh, jeez, what's going on? Here I'm going
to Europe to meet with the owners of CSJ, how do I tell them?
I'm going to lose my job. All the things you think about when
you're just not experienced enough to know what's going on with
the wine. I thought, Gosh, I thought the wine was so beautiful
when it was fermenting. Now it smelled a little bit like
pineapple juice, didn't have much character to it at all, and it
was flavorless. Sweet; flavorless. A little acidity on the
finish, but overall very unimpressive!
Hicke: Which wine was this?
Arrowood: This was the '74 Select Late Harvest Riesling. And this was
what I was excited about, because it was very unusual. Cabernet
was great, Chardonnays were fine, but this was supposed to be
Ah, what am I going to do? So I go over to Europe, and the
whole time, of course, my stomach is in knots because at any
time they could say, "How did that Riesling turn out?" "Oh,
it's fine," I'm thinking, and I was just nervous as the dickens.
It really wore on me.
So I came back, we had bought all the equipment, and I'm
thinking, How do I tell them this thing didn't turn out? So I
said, "Well, we've got to get the stuff down to be inspected,"
because now at that point in time, around January, February,
March, something like that, in '75, we had to get the wines
labeled, although we didn't have our winery yet at Chateau St.
Jean. We had the property, but we didn't have a winery built.
So they wanted to come up. They said, "We want to taste
these wines, and we'll be up in a couple of weeks." And I
thought, Oh, God, but okay. So I've got to let them taste the
wines. What am I going to do? I seriously considered going out
and buying a bottle of late harvest Riesling and just decanting
it into the bottle and phonying it in. I was so upset about it,
because I thought, I just can't show them this. What am I going
to do? But that's not me, that's not ethical. I'll just tell
them the truth and walk away from it.
So I had the guys in at Sonoma Vineyards and I said, "Let's
get down a pallet." The wine had since been moved to the
warehouse at Sonoma Vineyards and it was way up on top. I said,
"Let's take a pallet down, and I'll get a bottle out; let me
check it and see where it is, see just how bad it is." So as
the forklift driver is taking out the pallet, one of the cases
catches on the corner, and the bottom flap opens up, and a
bottle drops out and smashes on the floor. I wasn't paying
attention, I was talking to Rod or something out in the
warehouse --and I heard the thing crash, and said, "What's going
on?" "Broke a bottle of wine," was the reply.
"God, what's that?" [laughter] "Wow, apricots and peaches
and nectar. What is this? What is that bottle? What did you
break?" "A bottle of Riesling." I said, "You're kidding! Wow,
great!" The guy said, "You're out of your mind." I said, "No,
it's fantastic! You don't understand!" So we got a bottle out,
I pulled the cork on it, and poured some for Rod. He said,
"This is fantastic, Dick. You've done a great job." I was just
really relieved. The wine had simply gone into a typical bottle
shock phase, and it was just not there before, but it had a
chance to sit and rest and it developed.
It was just that phase?
It went from reticent nose and no flavor to this blossoming
peaches and apricot nectar. So I brought a bottle to the
Merzoians, and they flipped over it. We started taking it out
to wine writers. They all went pretty nuts over it.
At that time, I remember I asked Ken, "How much do you want
to sell it for?" He said, "It will be $6.50 a bottle." I said,
"Ken, you can't get $6.50 for a bottle of California Riesling.
There's no way, it isn't going to sell for that. It's just not
going to sell."
So we argued back and forth, finally came out
Hicke: [laughs] I can see you had a lot of influence on him.
Arrowood: Yes. So we priced it at $6.25, $50 a case wholesale. The wine
sold out very rapidly to distributors, but a lot of it just sat
on store shelves. It didn't sell well because people didn't
know what it was. A few wine writers picked up on it, but not
too much was happening until Jergensen's had tasted this wine
and wrote it up in their big newsletter. At that time,
Jergensen's was a big force in the marketplace in southern
California. In those days, you had what they called California
Fair Trade [laws], if you'll recall. You couldn't sell it for
less than the posted price, but you could sell it for more.
So Jergensen's slapped a $15 price tag on that $6.25 bottle
of wine, and they had 200 cases in their inventory, and they
sold it out in a week. [tape interruption]
Hicke: We were just talking about Jergensen's.
Arrowood: Right. They marked it up by this horrendous amount, and they
sold it out, and they bought another 200 cases. I think we'd
made again, I'm just going to guess--! think we had made a
couple of thousand cases is all. But it went through the system
so fast, then some of the wine writers picked up on it, and as
the wine aged, of course, it got better and better and better,
and it was getting great press. I think it won a sweepstakes
award at the L.A. County Fair. We started to blossom from there
and thus the Chateau St. Jean label started to get recognition.
That wine was one that I think brought their attention to
late harvest Riesling, to the Chateau, but it really wasn't
until "75 that we were able to makeand we can get into that
story later onbut we were able to make the very late harvest
Trockenbeerenausleses and Beerenausleses those are styles and
those wines probably of and by themselves, coupled with the
first release, is what gave Chateau St. Jean its initial
And incidentally, the name Chateau St. Jean [pronounced
like the woman's name] was one of those things where people
went, "How did you ever come up with that, because doesn't it
really say Chateau St. Jean [pronounced like the man's name]?"
And what they said was really true, it was named after Ken's
sister "Jean." The problem was that they didn't understand the
French language enough, it should have been Chateau Ste. Jean,
and then it would have been Ste. Jean [woman], and would have
been correct. But they didn't do that. I kept saying, "Maybe
we ought to change this," "No, we've got to leave it the way it
is." So of course, people today still use Chateau St. Jean
[woman] versus St. Jean [man], but some will still call it St.
Jean [man] .
Hicke: But that's one of the things you remember about it. "Oh, no,
this is isn't pronounced like French, it's St. Jean [woman's
name ] . "
Arrowood: Right, and you always had to say it that way. So people always
thought we were a little bit nutty, but that's okay. Did they
want good French grammar or just great tasting wines?
Once a consumer learns that, I think it's--
Right, and that's what you want them to do.
You want them to do
But I think that ' s sort of what brought my artistry to the
forefront and started to get the following to the winery. And
again, we had pretty free rein to deal with the growers from top
to bottom, the contractual arrangements and all of that. That
worked out really well, because I had some very good
relationships with many of the growers. Robert Young, for
instance, a very famous grower and Chateau St. Jean--I'd like to
say we made him famous, but frankly together we made each other
Robert is an interesting guy. I knew Robert and Gertrude- -
when Gertie was still alive--since I was a little boy. As a
matter of fact, she used to take care of me when I was a little
kid. I used to always joke with the people of the winery,
saying, "Well, that's probably why we're paying the higher price
for the fruit, because she used to have to babysit me."
[laughter] But my mother and my grandmother were very good
friends of the Youngs when I was a little boy, so I remember
going over to their house and playing on the swings and with
They lived in Santa Rosa?
They lived in Alexander Valley.
I used to go out there quite often. Understand, my mom was born
and raised in the Alexander Valley, and my grandmother the same
way, so they had a lot of friends there at that time. When 1
got into the grower/winery relationship with Bob Young, that was
just by happenstance, because I was at Sonoma Vineyards, and it
really wasn't until I was at Chateau St. Jean that I took all of
Bob's grapes to the chateau, and we essentially crushed
virtually 100 percent of his fruit. He had a lot of varieties
to choose from- -he had Chardonnay and Cabernet and Pinot Noir
and Pinot Blanc and Riesling and Gewiirtztraminer and you name
it, he had it.
It was one of those things that the relationship, I think,
helped us really build this vineyard designate program that Ren
Sheffield had envisioned, because we managed to get together
with the Robert Youngs of the world and the Ron and Henry Dicks
of Belle Terre Vineyards of the world, and all the different
growers we had around. It all of a sudden became very
important, many of the growers said, "Sure, I'll sell you the
grapes, but do I get my name on the label?" "Well, it depends
on how the fruit turns out, and if you'll grow it the way we
want it to, perhaps, we'd make a vineyard designate."
In fact, there was at one time nine different Chardonnays- -
we had eight vineyard designate Chardonnays and a Sonoma County
appellation; so we had nine different Chardonnays in one
vintage, which was both a blessing and major curse at the same
time. The difficulty, I think, came when many retailers
couldn't get certain lots, for instance, Wildwood Vineyards here
in Sonoma Valley, which is now the Runde Estate Winery, McCrea
Ranch, River View, Bacigalupi Vineyards, Beltane Ranch, Belle
Terre, Robert Young, Frank Johnson Vineyards, Chateau St. Jean
Estate, and there were so many of them that we dealt with, it
was very confusing to many of the retailers.
A couple of the wine writers picked up on it and dinged us
pretty good because theyI remember L.A. Magazine, there was an
article that came out, and the fellow who wrote it went by a pen
name, which the name escapes me now [Van Delaney] , but we never
were quite sure who wrote the article. But he was saying that
he was surprised that a winery such as Chateau St. Jean would
put out so many wines, that the idea of experimenting with all
these vineyards was something that belonged not in production
but in a laboratory. And I remember being so furious, just
angry that this guy would write such a thing, and he said,
"While I haven't tasted any of the wines, I can't believe
they're that different." And of course, that was just it. When
I finished the article, I said, "Okay," time to shoot him a
So I drafted a letter, and the first one was a poison-pen
letter, but then the next one was a little less poison. By the
time I finally sent the letter out, I had calmed it down pretty
good. I invited him to taste the wines and sent some wines to
him. I just said, "Give me a fair shot; at least taste the
wines. If they're not different, fine. The article stands."
L.A. Magazine at that time was really "The Los Angeles"
magazine, a very important publication. It was before Spectator
really had hit the scene.
So he tasted itI'm thinking of his name all the time but
I just can't remember, I think it was a pen name of Colman
Andrews but I'm just not sure--his pen name was Van Delaney,
that's the name he went under. But there's nobody by that name,
so it's a pen name of someone. Anyway.
Whoever this Mr. Delaney was, he tasted the wines, and by
God, he wrote a retraction, and wrote another article and just
said that he was astounded to find that these wines were indeed
quite different from one another, although they had been treated
the same enologically, the various flavor nuances had to do with
where the grapes were grown in the vineyards. How about that?
Problems Developing at Chateau St. Jean
Arrowood: From that time on, it was like a rocket ship, and Chateau St.
Jean just took off and flew and flew and flew. Again,
unfortunately in the wine industry, there were so many other
factors that, although the chateau was doing great, the table
grape and the wine grape business in the San Joaquin Valley, the
bottom was dropping out on them. The Merzoians were losing
dollar after dollar in their operations down there.
So it was kind of one of those things that, when Ken
Sheffield wanted to sell his interest in the operation, and he
didn't want the Merzoians to have to- -he wanted to bring in a
partner. Ken went over to Europe. Ken is a real
conceptualizer. Interesting guy, and a lot of people put--he
had some concepts, he developed a company called Sheffield's :
Water Company, but unfortunately it didn't succeed. He was at
the wrong place at the wrong time, he was just before his time.
He was about five years ahead of schedule. Had he done it
today, the thing would have flown and probably would have been
Hicke: Bottled water?
Arrowood: Bottled water. I mean, it was justyou know. It was not a
dumb thing, it just was way too far ahead of its time. He
wanted to sell upscale, top-quality, designer water, so to
speak, and he had some interesting ideas. He had a way to- -he
had a guy from Switzerland that came over who was in my opinion
a total charlatan, as far as I'm concerned, and I told Ken that,
and it's not a problem. This guy's name was Paul Armaker.
Supposedly he had this great process to super oxygenate
water. I try to forget it as fast as I canbut he had
developed a way to put an inordinate amount of oxygen and
dissolve it in water, super- saturate it. Then he could
carbonate it and then bottle it, and it would have this high
oxygen level, and it would get you over a hangover faster and
all this other stuff, which was total bunk, as far as I'm
concerned. Ken said, "No--." He had me taste these waters,
would ozonate the water.
The problem is, I'm a graduate chemist. So I'd look at
this, and I called a lot of my chemistry professor friends. I
said, "Is it possible to super- saturate water at room
temperature and then sweep through carbon dioxide and still have
partial pressure of oxygen and carbon dioxide in balance with
one another, and even having an excess of oxygen?" I was told
that it's physically not possible. But he was trying to
convince everybody this was going onwhich in fact it wasn't!
Now, the idea of ozonating water and getting high oxygen
content is possible. But to then force-carbonate it and still
have a higher oxygen content and maintaining the oxygen level at
forty parts per million oxygen, impossible. Just wasn't going
Hicke: You'd have to rearrange the molecules or something, wouldn't
Arrowood: Well, exactly, and it's just not physically possible. So I
asked Paul (the Swiss developer of this "magical process") every
time I'd go see him, he had a little shop, we designed a little-
-we took our little shop and we turned it into his little
laboratory where he could do all his work. So I used to go up,
and he would never let me see what he was doingevery time he'd
see me coming he'd close up all his stuff. It was one of these
shots. It just angered me. I kept saying, "Ken, he's taking
you for a ride. The guy is a charlatan. He can't do what he
says he can do with super saturation of oxygen and C0 2 !"
So I grabbed samples and I'd send them off to my professors
and say, "Tell me how much oxygen is in there." They'd come
back and it would be barely at saturation or below saturation.
And he'd say, [German accent] "Oh, no, Dick, you're wrong.
That's not the way it is. They're measuring ze oxygen wrong.
They don't know how to do it." I said, "Paul, I don't know.
You show me how to measure it." "Veil, it's not important right
now. The important thing is that we make the best water," and
so on and so forth. Well, yeah, but you're conning somebody.
I really resented that, and quite often, I had to do
experiments down at the winery for this clown. He made me do
some stuff that I had to- -the Merzoians wanted it done, so 1 had
to turn wine tanks into special pressure vessels and silliness
like this, so it interfered with my winemaking and really
angered me, because the guy was a phony. It never was proven
that it worked because the guy couldn't prove it, it just wasn't
But Ken--and this is not demeaning to Ken--Ken is a
brilliant guy, I mean, major brilliant guy, but this one I just
think he missed, not because it wasn't a good idea. It was just
before its time. It still might have been successful had they
not spent a fortune in advertising, and unfortunately, it
flopped because of the expense involved.
He was something of a risk-taker, also, I guess.
A little bit of a risk-taker.
Chateau St. Jean Sold to Suntory
Arrowood: Finally the Merzoians decided they had to sell the company. Ken
wanted to bring in somebody from Europe, and quite frankly, he
was probably right. I'm glad that it didn't work that way
because I wouldn't have this winery today, had it not been for
the people who eventually bought the winery. Things are just--
my wife is one of these people, you have to understand, who
believes that things happen for a reason. Me, I take a
situation and assess it, and I'm a pessimistic pessimist, and
she's an optimistic optimist. So we have two diametrically
opposed schools of thought. So I'm always looking at, "Yeah,
but, but, but, and you can't do it, and this is why," although
I'll do things once I feel comfortable with it. When it's
usually first presented to me, unfortunately the first word out
of my mouth is usually, "No, won't do it, won't work," whatever.
But she says things happen for a reason, and frankly I
think she's probably right. This Arrowood Winery came about
because of the fact that the Merzoians eventually had to sell
Chateau St. Jean!
Hicke: They basically had to sell it because of their own financial
Exactly. They were just losing vast amounts of money in their
table grape operation and the bank was putting phenomenal
pressure on them to pay off some loans, and they didn't have the
money to do it. So they had to generate cash. So they got into
a--we had several people-
was the Chateau St. Jean
Let me ask you one other thing:
profit-making by that time?
Very much so, very profitable.
But not enough to cover their other- -okay.
Yes. And if they'd have drawn--! mean, it was profitable, but
it had a lot of debt, like most other operations.
So they were paying--yes, okay, I see.
So what happened essentially was that they put it on the market,
and we had a lot of people coming and kick on the doors. And of
course, when you help build a place from top to bottom, you're
very jealous of any and you jealously guard it. So I wasn't too
crazy about having all these people coming through kicking
tires, thinking, This might be my new employer, or who's it
going to be? So eventually, they had Nestle looking at it, and
I made some good contacts and friends there from Switzerland. A
lot of things were happening, but Allan Hemphill kind of kept me
apprised of what was going on, and of course, they'd always want
me to take them through the winery, so that's what I did. "Does
the winemaker go?" "Oh, yes." Well, no, I'm my ownI'm
nobody's slave, so if this place sells, we'll talk. "But I
don't know what I'm going to do at this particular point."
Because I was sure enough of myself then because we'd made
enough successes that, and although I don't think I was cocky, I
felt that I could write my own ticket for myself the way I
wanted it to be.
In July of 1984, Suntory International of Japan came out
and did their dog-and-pony show. And my problem was and still
is that my grandfather fought in the war in the Pacific, I
wasn't too crazy about the Japanese, and I really wasn't
interested in the Japanese coming in and taking over the
operation. So we had the dog-and-pony show, had them in and out
of the operation for a long time. I was surprised that I met
some very interesting people, a couple of whom have become good
friends, from Suntory. But I Just felt like I had gone to a
proctologist ' s office and had everybody poking me from every
different angle in the world, and just the same questions over
and over again. They brought their winemakers over. They
wanted to ask all these questions.
I wasn't crazy about sharing some of the real detailed
information, only becausenot that there 's--there really are no
secrets in this business, because it's the grape source, and
frankly they never could understand that. So I always could
tell them however we do it", and they'd go back to Japan and they
still couldn't even come close to duplicating it. But the
Japanese love to copy things, so 1 didn't want to give them
morebecause there were some things that we had discovered
that, although again I don't necessarily agree with Jess Jackson
that there are proprietary things in the wine business as far as
making table wine, 1 just don't agree with that, and Jess is a
good friend so he knows how I feel about it, but the fact of the
matter is, we had discovered some things that were shortcuts,
sidesteps, quick and easy processes, or processes that made a
wine a little different than what everybody else's were, and
that's why we were doing so well. I knew that, besides the
grapes being 99 percent of it, there was still 1 percent that
could actually get you over the edge, if you want to percentile
Hicke: I think they owned Firestone by this time, didn't they?
Arrowood: As I understand it, they had a third interest in Firestone.
Actually, Suntory didn't, but Keizo Saji, who was the primary
stockholder in Suntory, had a one-third interest.
Hicke: Oh, yes, it was not the company- -
Arrowood: Right. He's the head man, he's the chairman of the board of
Suntory Limited, and again he had the majority interest in
But the sale finally went through in October of 1984,
finally closed, and I was there to sign all the documents as a
new officer in the new corporation and became executive vice
president and winemaster at that point. Every year I had gone
to, as 1 still do now, to Alaska and fly fish. For hobbies, I'm
a fly fisherman and sporting clays shooter, I like outdoor
sports. I'd gone up to Alaska and was out of the lodge, and no
phones- -they have a radio phone, but no phones. So I had been
out fishing. I had arrived there on a Sunday and this was like
a Wednesday afternoon, I had been fishing. I was going to be
there for ten days.
I motored up to the lodge and the dock, and this guy comes
and says, "Mr. Arrowood, there's a phone call for you." I said,
Arrowood: "There's a phone call for you." I said, "I know you don't have
a phone," because I knew it was broken. He said, "No, we've got
the radio phone fixed." I said, "Aw, you're just kidding." So
1 go in and take the call. It was Allan on the radio phone. Of
course, we're transmitting back and forth. This was the days
before cellular phones, so it was an interesting call.
He said, "You've got to get back. The Japanese company is
buying Chateau St. Jean, the deal's going through and they want
everybody here for a very important meeting. Can you get back?"
I said, "Sure, I'll do whatever's necessary." He said, "I'm
sorry to do that to you." I said, "No, it's not your fault.
They're asking." "They want you here." So I said, "Fine."
So I had to get the first plane out, took it from the lodge
in Anchorage and flew from Anchorage back home. All this to go
to a goddamn tea party, a cocktail party that they had just to
introduce everybody, and that's all it was. I didn't say
anything to them at the time, but I was just furious.
Fortunately, because if you leave early usually you lose
everything at the lodge, fortunately the guy at the lodge said,
"Look, you've got five days' credit coming next year, we'll give
you five days' credit if you come back." I said, "I'll be back,
you know that." So it worked out where the guy credited the
time; I didn't lose the money.
So we had to be back, and we did this thing. The deal
finally closed in October of '84. The Merzoians--we went to the
law offices of Cooley, Godward [Castro, Huddleson & Tatum] , I
think, in San Francisco, and all the documents were signed. Had
representatives from the Bank of America there. And I can't say
that I blame the bank for wanting to get their money, but it was
one of these deals where, as an officer of the company, I'm
signing the checks over the Merzoians, and I give one to the
Merzoians, and the guy from B of A says, "Thank you very much,"
takes the check. It was that terrible. Now, they did have some
money, fortunately. They [the bank] didn't just get it all.
But they paid the bank off immediately right then and there.
We had a meeting afterwards, and the Merzoians brought me
over to their attorney's office, and they saidthis is Bob,
Ken, and Ed--"You really helped us get $40 million-plus for this
operation, and we want to thank you somehow." I said, "Well,
you already have." "What do we owe you?" I said, "You don't
owe me anything. You've given me an opportunity; I really
appreciate it." "No, we'd like to give you something. What
would you like?"
I said, "You don't owe me anything. If you want to do
something, that's up to you. I really don't feel you owe me
anything." I know they did it with a couple of other people,
but I guess I kind of surprised them, because everybody else had
some numbers in mind, and they did what they wanted to do for
them. But for me, they took care of me extremely well, and not
only gave me additional dollars in salary, but they gave me a
gift which helped Alis and I buy this place. So they were very,
very kind to me, and I will never forget them for that.
THE FOLLOWING SEVEN PAGES (46-52) ARE SEALED UNTIL 2020 PER
V ARROWOOD VINEYARDS & WINERY
Finding the Site
Let's go back to starting the winery,
and find something to buy?
How did you look around
Well, we wanted to get something that was in close proximity to
Chateau St. Jean, because I figured I was going to be running
both operations. Had a contract with them, everything was going
to be fine. Little did I know they would decide to breach the
contract and hire somebody else and play all those little games.
So once that happened, it became clear what I had to do. But we
had found this piece of property, a fifteen-acre parcel here.
Alis and I bought this in August of '86.
Hicke: Let's go back, and I'd like to ask you to tell me about Alis--
when you married her, and what her background is.
Arrowood: I met her at Chateau St. Jean. She's French-Canadian, a
Canadian citizen, and still remains a Canadian citizen. I don't
want her to change her citizenship. She's talked about it.
"Oh, no, you've got to be proud. I wouldn't change my
citizenship; I'm proud of the United States, and I'm not going
to become something else, and you ought to be proud of your
heritage," which she is. She is a French-speaking Canadian,
also fluent in English, but her mother tongue is French.
I met her through a friend. She used to work for Callaway
[Vineyard and] Winery, and one of my old classmates at Fresno
decided to bring up the sales manager and assistant winemaker to
visit the wine country. So I met Alis the first time at the
California Wine Experience, November of 1981. I had another
date at the time. I had divorced from my first wife. I met
her, didn't pay much attention, because she was pouring for
Callaway, and I was out to see my friend at Callaway, so I was
chatting with him and chatting with her boss [Eileen Lloyd] ,
whom 1 knew quite well.
So to make the story go on, they wanted to come up to visit
Chateau St. Jean, and they made an arrangement to come up. So 1
said, "I'll take you through," because I knew Eileen- -at that
time was Eileen McLemore, now Eileen Lloyd- -she was the sales
manager for Callaway, and knew people at Callaway and the
winemaker there, Steve O'Donnell. His assistant there was
Dwayne Helmuth, and Dwayne came up with the two ladies.
Took them on a tour, and I kept looking at Alis thinking,
That's a pretty woman, really attractive lady. She had never
figured that out because she could never see I was watching her,
but I guess--this is what she said; I didn't realize I was that
un-obvious. But she just was very interesting.
So I called Dwayne up the day after they left when he had
gotten back to Callaway, and I said, "Who was that with Eileen?"
He said, "That's a lady by the name Alis Demers." I said, "Oh,
is she married?" He said, "No, but I think she's engaged." I
said, "Ah, it figures." Okay, well, that's fine.
But he said, "I don't know, you ought to- -do you like her?
She's a nice lady." I said, "Well, yes, she seems to be a
pleasant person." He said, "Well, you ought to ask her out." I
said, "Well, if she's engaged, I don't want to get in the middle
of one of these." "Oh, no, you ought to ask her out."
So a couple of days lateryou see, I get to work here at
six-thirty every morning so I forget what time it is. So about
quarter to eight, I pick up the phone and give her a call.
Well, she's in sales, and they don't even get on the street
until ten-thirty, eleven o'clock, so she's still sound asleep.
I said, "Hi, Alis?"
She said, "Yeah?" I said, "This is Dick Arrowood."
[pause] "Oh! Yeah, how are you?" [laughter] It was one of
those deals. I said, "I'm going to be doing a wine tasting at a
winemaker 's dinner in Los Angeles. Would you like to join me?"
She said, "I guess. What's a winemaker's dinner?" She'd just
joined Callaway. I said, "Well, you taste Arrowood wines." So
she said, "Okay, well, that should be fine."
So she hung up and she told me she said to herself, "Jesus,
why did I say yes?" So she called up Eileen and she said, "Who
the hell is this guy?"
To make a long story even longer, that's how we met. I
flew down and met her in Los Angeles, she picked me up at the
airport, we went to dinner, and the rest is history. It was
just one of those crazy, crazy things.
Hicke: And when did you get married?
Arrowood: She moved up to Sonoma County, we lived together for several
years before we got married. She moved up in '82--was it "82?
Yes. We lived together for about three years, and we got
married in '85, March in '85.
Hicke: And what was she doing, did she work up here?
Arrowood: She stayed at Callaway all that time until she moved up here,
and then when she moved up here, because she's fluent in French,
I got her an interview for a job as the director of the
visitors' center at Piper Sonoma. I called Rod Strong up, and
Rod interviewed her and said, "I want her," so she got the job
there. She stayed with Piper Sonoma until we closed this deal
in August of '86, and she left Piper Sonoma then.
Hicke: Pretty clever of you to find somebody with a marketing and sales
Arrowood: Yes, I know. Of course, I didn't know about that at the time,
but that was something that worked out very well. She works
with our sales manager, and Alis also spends a lot of time on
the road, loves it, and is great in promotion and things like
that. She's a real happy-type person, as I said, very much an
optimist. Very much an optimist. You see, I have a very short
fuse; my fuse you can light very easily, but I get it out of my
But with Alis--very long fuse. You really have to work at
getting her mad, but if you get her mad, you'd better get the
heck out of the way. I've only gotten her mad a couple of
times, and I didn't like what I saw. But really, she doesn't
get offended easily. She's pretty easygoing, very self-assured
without being--. Put it this way: anybody that can be married
to me can't be all bad, so she has some very, very good traits.
And she helped me through this interim period with the
Chateau St. Jean thing. But it was nice, when it finally all
was said and done and worked out, it was great. I put sixteen
years in there, of which twelve were pretty pleasant years.
Hicke: You certainly made some excellent, outstanding wines.
Arrowood: Yes, and that was the thing. To this day, although I still have
many friends there in production, sales, people that I still
consider my friends, the place has changed very much. I really
don't have any animosity towards Chateau St. Jean. First of
all, they've moved the Japanese off the premise; they don't have
anybody there. They still are owned by Suntory, and they've got
some nice people, good people that I've known for a long time
running the operation. The fellow who worked for me for
fourteen years at Chateau St. Jean is the winemaster, Don Von
Staaveren, very capable fellow, very knowledgeable, doing a heck
of a job for them, and God bless him. We still get along very,
Only the years that I had to deal with some of the board of
directors and a lot of other things that had to be done at
Chateau St. Jean through Suntory were very unpleasant. Very
different. Just a different type of ethics, I guess? My father
taught me a long time ago that my word and my handshake were the
two most important valuable bonds that I've ever had. My dad
never had to use an attorney for any contracted deals. I think
the only time he ever used an attorney was to draw up his will.
I mean, my dad just felt that you didn't sue people. If you
told somebody you'd do something, you did it. If you said,
"Hey, I'll pay you for this," you did.
I've always tried to remember that. Again I'm not trying
to say that I'm close to perfect, but I've always felt that I
had reasonable work ethics, reasonable business ethics. It just
incensed me. More than anything, I think I was probably so
naive to think that people don't do these kinds of things. And
it's not specific to Japanese business people, but they in
themselves have a way of doing things in that regard.
Different. But experience that was certainly worth the time, to
go through it and see it.
Hicke: Speaking of time, how's your time?
Arrowood: Yes, actually, I'm going to have to scoot here pretty quick
because I've got some people coming at twelve-thirty that I've
got to meet up at the house and have a sandwich with.
Hicke: Well, thanks very much for this interview.
The Winery Property
[Interview 2: November 13, 1995 ]tt
Hicke: You remember that we got just about up to your establishment of
this winery last time. So, where I'd like to start is, you had
just mentioned that you were looking around for property near
Chateau St. Jean. How did you settle on this property here, and
what was good about it?
Arrowood: What we did was have a real estate agent looking for property
for us in close proximity to Chateau St. Jean, so that we could
find something that would allow us to build our winery, run this
operation, and continue to run the operation at Chateau St.
Hicke: Can I just ask if these real estate agents specialize in
Arrowood: Some did, but this just happened to be a friend of the family.
As a matter of fact, she now runs the visitors center at Piper
Sonoma. Jo Gibson is her name; nice lady. She's the sister-in-
law of Allan Hemphill. This is how incestuous this industry is;
we're all tied together somehow. In any event, she found the
property for us, and it was one of those things- -we had made a
bid on a property which was only about a mile away from Chateau
St. Jean in the town of Kenwood, and we looked at the property,
and thought we'd made them a very handsome offer. They kind of
laughed in our face.
I was a little depressed about it, to be honest with you,
but then Alis got the phone call from Jo Gibson saying she'd
found a piece of property that was still in the multiple listing
book, but it was an old book, and she didn't know if the
property was still for sale or had been sold. So she said,
"Well, let's go take a look at it." Alis asked me if I wanted
to go, and I kind of said, "You know, I don't really feel like
looking at property right now." I was Just still a little bit
depressed about the fact that we lost the first deal. I really
wanted that property because of its close proximity to Chateau
Basically I said I didn't want to go, so Jo Gibson came
over to pick up Alis, and said, "Oh, come on, come on," and she
tried to persuade me. I said, "All right," so I went out with
both Alis and Jo. We drove up the driveway to this place, and
of course, there was nothing here; it was an open field and oak
trees. We got up to the house up on top, which was built where
Alls and I live now. We just drove up and we said, "God, this
is it. If this is really still for sale, this is it." This was
what we wanted; it looked good, it was a very pleasant-looking
place, and it just knocked our socks off.
We went up to the door, and she had already made
arrangements to see the fellow who had it for sale, who happened
to be a real estate agent also. He said he'd taken it off the
market, but if we really wanted to take a look at it, he'd be
happy to show us. We looked at it, decided it was what we
wanted, made an offer he couldn't refuse, and he accepted. It
was contingent upon the approval of a use permit for the winery,
but we gave him enough nonrefundable deposit where he felt
pretty comfortable with it.
Hicke: There was no winery here?
Arrowood: There was nothing here, just the house, and fifteen acres of
property. Just the house.
Hicke: And no vineyards?
Arrowood: No. It was bare land.
Hicke: Had you planned to plant vineyards, or just build the winery?
Arrowood: Both. So in "86, when the offer was accepted, we had the
engineers come out before the final closing of escrow, and we
looked at potential winery sites. We found the site where we're
sitting right now, and started drawing plans up. Once the sale
went through, we started planting vineyards in late August and
early September of '86. Things were already working the way we
wanted them to work. When the sale finally went through, the
vineyard construction as far as cross ripping the land was all
being done. We started the site work on the winery, and if you
recall, '86 was one of the drought years, so we didn't have any
bad weather really until December, so we continued to do site
work. We had the site all prepared as far as the foundation
base, and all this to be laid before the end of '86.
Hicke: Let me back up just a minute here. Did you look at the
direction of the exposure?
Arrowood: Oh, sure.
Hicke: I think it's southern exposure here, right?
Arrowood: Yes, exactly. We wanted to get that.
Hicke: What else did you look at in the way of--
Arrowood: Well, more than anything, we were concerned about soil type, but
as you can see out there, there's very little soil. It's almost
all solid volcanic rock and ash, so in what little soil there
was, the vines that grew struggled like the dickens. We thought
it would be the case that, if we could get water to them, the
fruit would turn out to produce great wines. It all worked out.
Our major concern was being able to get the winery in, and then
again, the proximity to Chateau St. Jean. Our own vineyards at
that time only provided about 5 percent of our needs . So its
production was a tiny, tiny portion of what we had planned.
Building the Winery
Hicke: Now, for the plans for the winery, how did you go about
Arrowood: What we did was real easy. [tape interruption] The scenario
was that we liked the design of our house. (If you went and
looked at our house, it looks like a very similar but smaller
design of this building.)
Hicke: It's frame and--
Arrowood: Same. Big porch, New England-style farmhouse. So when we got
Summit Engineering involved with the architect, Richard McCrea,
he took a look at what we had in mind and said, "Well, what do
you really want?" I said, "I really don't want you to get too
crazy with the architecture. I want you to build it very
similar to the house that we already have, so we keep the
architecture in those same lines and the same design." That's
essentially what he did; he took the design of the house and
then scaled it up for a winery, and had it so it actually looks
a little bit like a big residence from the road. That made the
county planners happy. We put all the winemaking equipment
behind the winery. As a matter of fact, I think the Sonoma
Valley Society for Historic Preservation gave us an award of
excellence just for the building being put together properly.
Hicke: I read that, yes. And for fitting into the environment or
something like that.
Arrowood: Yes, and that's what we wanted to dokind of tuck it into the
hillside and make it look like it was part of the surrounding
area, not just something that stuck out as a sore thumb.
It didn't take very long to actually have everything fall
into place. The architectural renderings were done, our use
permits were issued, and we started actual construction of the
winery in June of "87, and the structure was finished in its
entirety, basically as you see it today, in November of '87. So
really about a year from the time that we got the property to
the time that the building was actually up was all it took,
which is amazing that it could be that way, but that's how fast
it went up. BDM Construction built this for us, out of Santa
Rosa, and they did it very well. It took them about three and a
half months to get the structure up and everything internally
done. I mean, it was quick, it was really quick. We started a
little later on the site preparation, because it's typical with
Sonoma County planning department, they just delayed us left and
right continually, but they never did change anything. It was
just typical bureaucracy.
Hicke: I wanted to ask about the necessary paperworkuse permits and
Arrowood: We're still having to play games there, but now we have our
neighbor, the Benzigers, who bought the neighbor's property in
front, and they're going to put in a microbrewery, which means
they'll be putting a left-hand-turn lane in [on the road passing
the winery]. That means we're going to be changing our use
permit to allow for a tasting room and a separate visitors
building. The biggest thing, the biggest bugaboo that the
planning commission now has is that they don't want us to create
a lot of traffic. In our use permit, we are supposed to be
sales and tours by appointment. I've always believed that if a
consumer comes up and has a desire to buy our wine, he's got an
appointment. I mean, it's crazy not to do that. But the county
wanted it done differently because there's no left-hand-turn
lane. Now that there will be one going in, I'll go back and
either request it be amended or reapply for a use permit to
increase it so that we can have the direct sales traffic we want
Hicke: So you had to get permission to build the winery and then
permission to have a tasting room?
Arrowood: To sell our wine. I mean, it's not as bad as Napa [Valley], but
it's bad enough.
Hicke: What does the county gain?
Arrowood: I really don't know. They've got little demagogues that work
this thing through, they're just great at being bureaucrats.
That's their whole reason of being, you know. These are people
who just enjoy it. It must be the power thing. We'll go back
to them, and we'll go with hat in hand, and hopefully they'll
I'll be real honest with you: if I could grow grapes
effectively in Colorado or Arizona or someplace else, I think
I'd move. I would. I mean, who needs this garbage? We're
about as clean as any winery can be, but the California
environment today is exceedingly antibusiness. It's exceedingly
antibusiness, and I'm sure it will probably continue that way
for some time to come. They want permits for storm drainage
runoff? Give me a break. This is so ridiculous, and it's all
to generate fees. We have hazardous material fees, we have
hazardous waste fees, fees for people to inspect your building
for you. If you generate more than five gallons of waste oil,
they expect you to have a permit for its storage and drainage--!
mean, it's idiotic. It's totally idiotic, and it's not
protecting the employees or the environment. But you have to
live with it, and so you do. You comply, or you get out.
There's really only two viable choices.
Well, that's interesting from a historical standpoint of view,
because that has changed so much from --
Yes, it is not business-friendly. And you can look at wineries,
which are probably the least polluting agribusiness you could
have, bar none, yet they treat you as if you were an oil-based
paint manufacturer, for lack of a better comparison, and you're
dumping your paint down the drain,
It's absurd. It's totally
Hicke: Okay, well, I got you off the track.
Arrowood: Yes, so to get back on it, we finished the project, and we
started the production facility here. Our first harvest was
'87, and although it was tight to get everything done, it did
get done the way we wanted it to.
Hicke: What were your goals for that first harvest?
Arrowood: The goal was, of course, to be able to get the fruit in the
winery and do the best we possibly could under the circumstances
of a first crush. It turned out pretty good. In fact, we
produced about 10,000 cases the first year.
Arrowood: Cabernet Sauvlgnon, Chardonnay, Merlot [for blending with
Cabernet Sauvignon] . Those were the varietal wines we were
producing at that time. The '85 and '86 vintages I made at
Chateau St . Jean for Arrowood Winery were the first wines on the
market. The first wines produced, bottled, and marketed from
here were from the "87 vintage. And '87 really turned out to be
a marvelous vintage. Great Cabernet. The Chardonnay was
exceptional, especially our reserve wine.
It started us thinking. We only did those two wines
[Cabernet and Chardonnay] that year. We used all of the sister
variety components to blend with our Cabernet, and these are the
Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, and Cab Franc. But we started
tasting Merlot wines from the '88 vintage, for instance, that
were so nice and so exceptional and so interesting to us, we
decided we wanted to also focus on Merlot.
We started from just a few cases really, and in fact we
produced a little bit of a Merlot selection out in '86; those
wines today are still too darn hardthe Merlot, anywayto say
that they were a success, but the '88 was. We didn't do any
Merlot in '87, but in '88, we did incorporate Merlot into the
program. It was an instant success.
Hicke: Why did you?
Arrowood: Oh, just because I'm a winemaker; I like to make different
wines. It seemed like I would get bored with just Chardonnay
and Cabernet, so we decided to use the Merlot. Our growth has
narrowed to focusing on singularly hand-crafted varietals in the
area of 20,000 to 25,000 cases annually, versus the 15,000 that
we originally planned. But we also planned for the project to
cost us X number of dollars, and of course, it cost X plus Y,
obviously more than we anticipated, and of course we wanted to
be able to service more of the debt.
Arrowood: The success of the winery has been such that we went from being
pursued by banks to being thrown out by banks, to now, back to
being pursued by banks again. It's kind of nice to have great
bank relationships again. It is amazing how it goes around,
Just as I've said, "never again," working with the Japanese
companies, I say "never again" when it comes to working with a
bank that doesn't really want to have us.
Our sole goal of producing singular top-quality wines fits
in with the second financial sole goal, which is to be
financially as independent as absolutely possible, and be with a
bank who is both friendly and understands your business needs.
For instance, we're now with Farm Credit, also known as Pacific
Coast Farm Credit Service, and they have been very, very good to
Hicke: Oh, that's the name of it, Pacific Coast?
Arrowood: Pacific Coast Farm Credit, yes. They were good enough when I
left Chateau St. Jean to provide the mortgage financing for us,
and then once we really got things rocking and rolling, and we
were generating the income and the profits that we both felt
comfortable with, they eventually took over all of our banking
relationships. They treated us fairly and continue to do so to
But as I said, when we left Chateau St. Jean, the banking
relationship that we had to provide all the financing was
through Suntory's relationship with Sanwa Bank. Once I left
Chateau St. Jean, of course, we had to pay off Sanwa Bank. That
was all worked out. Security Pacific [Bank] took them out, and
then, of course, Security Pacific being taken over by Bank of
America became less than interested in the wine business.
Because they had loaned money to the "Vintech debacle," and they
decided to paint us with the same brush, their actions were
fairly rude and rather cold.
When B of A finally got in there, they decided to put us in
what they call their "special assets division," which was
ridiculous. We had their auditors come in and take a look at
the performance. The auditor came to our controller in the
meeting and said, "I only have one question. Why are you in
special assets?" [The special assets is a division where they
have troubled accounts.] We said, "Well, you tell us. You guys
put us in there. Since neither of us wants to do business with
the other, we'll be out of here as soon as we can find another
banking relationship, but it will take us time to do it. We
need you to work with us until a new banking relationship could
be established. We'll then move on."
Well, we eventually did. One thing led to another, and we
went to a little bank in Richmond called Mechanics Bank, which
came in and did some good things for us. That got us to step
one, in part of the puzzle. Then from Mechanics Bank, First
Northern Bank of Dixon made us an offer to take out the balance
of all of the debt that we had with B of A. It worked out
really very nicely. We were with them for a couple of years,
and then Farm Credit came to us and just said, "Look. We can
make you a deal you can't refuse" for securing the midterm debt.
We already had the longtenn debt tied up, so they went through
and handled it all for us.- It's just been fantastic working
with Farm Credit.
The sad part about it is that the idiots at Bank of
America, and I'll use that termI have no problem, they are
idiotsthey treated us with, at best, indifferent contempt,
didn't understand what was going on or even pretend to. They
put us, when we were in their special assets division, they put
us under the auspices of a very nice lady, Maggie Metheny. She
was very courteous to us and looked out for both B of A's
interests and our own interests at the same time. There was
also a little thing called "lender liability," and of course
they knew about it, so I am guessing that that certainly had an
impact on the Bank's method of trying to collect the loan.
We knew that was going on, because unbeknownst to them, the
attorney for Mechanics Bank played golf with one of the chief
counsels at Security Pacific Bank. When they were golfing one
day--I know this because I got it back to me from a manager of
Mechanics Bankwhen they were playing golf one day, I guess
they just said something about the wine business, someone asked
if they did any loans in that arena, and one attorney said,
"Yes, we've done some. We just got a couple in--" and with
Wente Brothers, I think we were the only two wineries that they
dealt with at the time at Mechanics Bank. And the attorney
asked who the wineries were and was answered, "Wente Brothers
and Arrowood." "Oh, Arrowood," he said, "we used to have
Arrowood at Security Pacific. Boy, did we put it to them."
So I got it back and I passed this on to our attorney. We
felt we were on pretty safe ground as it was, but that just
clamped it down. There were nasty letters going back and forth,
and finally I just, at the very end when First Northern took the
whole thing out, I wrote a nice letter to the chairman of the
board of Bank of America, and he returned a reply in about three
weeks' time. I just told him that "We got poor treatment from B
of A, other than Maggie Metheny, who was a damn good employee,
watched out for your interests as well as ours and did take care
of us, and I'm pleased to say we're no longer with your bank."
And I said, "If you continue to treat customers this way, the
way you threw us to the dogs, you won't have any customers."
Well, he wrote me a letter back, and I don't know if you
want it, but I'd be happy to give you a copy of it. I mean,
it's ridiculous, it's just, "Hey, thank you for your kind note,
I'm glad that B of A did what you expected of a bank, we like to
take care of our valued customers." I mean, it was just
ridiculous. Maggie Metheny got a copy, and she was just
mortified. She said, "Oh, my boss saw it and asked, "What can
we do?" Maggie said, "Do nothing? Just leave it?" And I said,
"That's correct. There's really nothing to do. It just shows
me what a bunch of buffoons you've got at your bank, from the
top on down."
And then they had the temerity, they had the temerity to
come back to us a couple of years later, and said, "Well, we'd
like to see if we could develop another relationship," and I
said, "Let me explain something to you." And this is a true
story, and I'm going to tone it down because I don't want some
of the words in print, exactly what I told them, but essentially
I said to B of A's representative out of Santa Rosa--and I don't
want to use names, I'll just say the representative from Santa
Rosa--I said, "Let me put this in perspective for you. If Bank
of America came to me and said, 'We'll loan you all the money
you want at no interest rate, and you can pay us back whenever
you want,' I still don't want your 'expletive-deleted 1 money.
Does that put it in perspective for you?"
He said, "I'm sorry you feel that way." I said, "I'm not.
You damn near put us out of business. Do you think I'd want to
go back with you? Are you kidding me? You've got a lot of
guts, I have to admit that, but you had a person in your bank
who came to our office and sat there and basically called me a
liar, said our FOB prices weren't as we said they were. It's
all in the computer, it's all on the forms, you can check with
any of the people, you know what our wholesale prices are. You
can go to our wholesaler and find out what they buy it for,
because they'll show you their paperwork. How much can I go
through and dig and change all this, if I'm not telling the
truth?" Basically, he called me a liar. I've never come so
close to knocking somebody's teeth down their throat sitting
right here in this office as I did at that time.
"This guy not only lost our business, but as I understand
it, he eventually lost all the Ferrari-Carano [Winery] business,
he lost all the business with Vino Farms and many other
companies. All told, he probably did about $120 million plus
worth of damage, maybe more, to your company, and he's still
working for you? You still keep people like this on? That
shows me what a bunch of clowns you guys are. You can change,
you put new paint in the restrooms and new paint on the outside
of the bank, but you're still run by the same clown-driven
So that's my feeling for B of A. You can obviously tell
that there's some passion there, because they just about brought
us to our knees. They've got guts, I have to admit that. But
that's all behind us, and the good news is we're with a company
right now that really has taken care of us and given us the
treatment that one would hope to expect.
Now, on the other side of the coin, we've been able to
deliver the profits in excess of what they expected us to do,
because we've had the quality of the product in the bottle. A
company cannot be expected to exist if its reason of being, its
raison d'etre, is simply to generate financial success. Now,
obviously you want to be financially successful, but if that's
your only point, sooner or later you're going to stub your toe.
Quality is still, as Ford says, "job one." It's still the
number-one thing you want to focus on. We want to try to grow
the best wines we possibly can in the vineyards that we buy
from, and I use that term not mistakenly. You do grow wine, in
fact, that's why we call growers, "winegrowers." You're trying
to make the best wine you possibly can. Whatever the vineyard
gives you is what you have to work with. That's why the
vineyards must be our major focus.
The financial aspect of it was just sort of a side issue,
but it took a lot away from me.
That goes to prove there's a lot more to a winery than growing
Of course, it's exactly that. And there's a lot more to people
who have vision versus people who don't have vision. Farm
Credit, of course, can only loan to agriculture, so they must
How long did it take in general to become a profitable winery?
You know, we were profitable technically from day one, but it
depends on how you play the game. Our first recordable profit
really took place in fiscal year '91, calendar year 1990. It
actually was the first one; although it was modest, it was still
there. And part of the reason was we also hired Vic Motto of
Motto, Rryla and Fisher out of St. Helena to act as our
financial business consultants, and they prepared a lot of the
documentation--f ive-year plans and things like thisthat the
banks requested and /or required, and then we went ahead and
implemented those. Vic Motto helped us get through some of the
rough and tough times that we had gone through. It just was
amazing: to be able to survive the way we did is probably
saying something unto itself, because there was a time when we
had--it was funny--we had some interested investors coming over
here from across the pond from Japan and Hong Kong that wanted
to buy in or buy the whole organization, and at the time, I was
so upset by this stuff that was going on at the bank that I
almost said, "The heck with it, let's just take our money and
get the heck out of this thing."
But I will give credit to my wife Alis; her quote was,
"It's going to get better. I promise you, Richard, it's going
to get better and you're going to laugh at this someday, and
you're going to be able to thumb your nose at them someday."
She was right, although I have yet to be able to laugh at it,
but I have been able to say that her optimism is what kept this
thing going, and that's the honest-to-God truth. I was ready to
throw the towel in, if it weren't for her believing that "it's
going to get better." It reminds me of something funny, because
out of a lot of the banks that said no at the time, we had
several banks come back to us and approach us. We had to say no
to five banks two years ago, and frankly it was kind of nice. I
mean, I have to tell you, anybody that says this doesn't feel
good is just either lying to you or very naive.
But it was really funny, because if you remember in the
movie Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts was the prostitute who was the
friend of Richard Gere, and he was very wealthy, and she went
into the very chi-chi, tony shops along Rodeo Drive in Beverly
Hills, and they treated her like she was dirt. Well, as he
became involved with her more and more, he decided to take her
to these shops himself, and the guy's a multimillionaire, so he
goes through and takes her to all these shops. She goes back to
the one shop where they treated her just like dirt, and she
says, "You remember I came in the other day, about a week ago,
and you didn't have time, and--" she was, of course, all dressed
up at the time. The saleswoman is sitting there, "Yes." They
spent thousands of dollars in each one of these stores, ten,
fifteen, twenty thousand dollars. She said, "You remember when
I was in here?" "Yes!" She said, "Big mistake. Big mistake."
That's exactly the way I felt with the banks, because they
made the mistake, not us. We did the right thing, and we did
exactly-plus what we said we would do. They were the ones that
made the big mistake, and I feel really positive on that, and
I'm not a very forgiving soul in this regard. I don't wish
malice on anyone, but like I said before, I can be your best
friend if you want a friend, but I'll also be your worst
nightmare for an enemy if that's what you want. And I owe B of
A, and I will continue to feel this way, because they
singlehandedly almost put this company under.
Again, I only bring this up now because it's part of the
history. I don't spend time on this on a daily basis. But
every so often, it's funny how it does come back. I saw a guy
who came to one of the tastings and was with Bank of America,
and he says, "Do you remember me?" I said, "Yes." He said,
"I'm really happy to see you guys are doing so well." I said,
"Yeah, me too." I won't tell you what else I really told him,
but I managed to turn around and walk away from him, and he just
kind of --he left promptly. But it always does come back. As
long as you can choose your battles and where they are to be
fought, then you have the possibility of success. If you are in
the wrong and you try to defend your actions, sooner or later
you're going to have big trouble. But if you're in the right
and you really believe you're in the right, then defend them you
should. That's the way I've always tried to philosophize life.
Hicke: Let me ask you about the equipment. I know you chose all the
equipment at St. Jean. Did you make any changes or improvements
when you started your winery?
Arrowood: Oh, yes, a few, but again, when you have a large operation and
your production is for that large operation, there are certain
pieces of equipment which will give you economies of scale,
which you get. But even on a smaller basis, the economies of
scale can still be done; you just have to look at the fact that
it takes maybe a little longer to accomplish them, because
you're processing less fruit through it. By and large, much of
the equipment that we had at St. Jean I also had available to me
here, but on a much smaller scale.
One thing we set out to do differently, or that evolved
maybe is the truthful term, which evolved that turned out a
little bit differently, was the fact that when you are running
an operation for somebody else and all their money is on the
line, for myself, at least, I feel adverse to more risk on that
basis. I feel less likely to do certain things on a larger
scale with somebody else's money than I would with my own. Not
that I'm a devil-may-care, risk-taking person, per se. Of
course, being in the business, by definition, makes you a risk-
taker. But I'm a lot less adverse to risk on my own operation
based on the fact that, okay, if I stub my toe, it's only going
to hurt me. Of course, there are our employees and you
obviously have to think about that aspect.
Fining and Filtering
Arrowood: One of the things that we did differently here was filtering.
At Chateau St. Jean, we filtered everything. Here I said, "Why
not? Let's do some experimentation." Starting in '88, we
started backing off on filtration of reds, and then really in
'89 and eventually '90, we did not filter any of our red wines
Arrowood: Fining we did; we had always done a light egg-white fining up
until about 1991, and then with our '91 vintage, we just did a
light clarification. Clarification and fining are two different
things, although the government calls them the same, and we
won't label it "unfined, unfiltered" unless we've not done any
of the processes. We'll put "unfiltered" on the label, but we
currently don't put "unfined," because we do add a very small
quantity of egg white to most of our reds to make them
brilliant, but it's a lot less than fining would be.
Arrowood: Fining would be the equivalent of putting, let's say, four to
six egg whites per barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon, for an example.
Clarification might be a half an egg white per barrel to help
settle it down, to just get the brilliancy without really
ultrasoftening the wine. Unfortunately, BATF [Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] doesn't see any difference; if
you add it, it's called fining agent, end of story. So we
therefore can't use the word "unfined." Sometimes you make a
wine more coarse than it should be and [it does] not have the
balance, integrity, and finesse that the wine should have,
whereas if you get the clarity of the wine a bit better and
you're not really taking off other than maybe a slight edge with
an egg white, and you don't filter it, then you can make a
Hicke: Is it an advantage to be able to label it unfined and
Arrowood: Perhaps. I don't really know. This will be the first year,
starting with '93 vintage, that we'll put "unfiltered" in red
print on the label. We've always talked about it. I put a
little strip label on the back that says we chose not to filter
the wine, and we've done a lot of P.R. [public relations] in
that regard, but we've never really spent much time on the
labeling. We just try to make the best wine we can. And it
makes sense now that we want to put it on there. I think it's
something that we may want to use that people will pick up on.
It can be a better wine because we've done less to it. That's
the whole point of the thing: less processing.
Hence, the point I was trying to make is that if we did do
less to the product to make more of the product- -not more
quantity but more quality of the product by doing less to it
you do take a little bit of an actual risk if you have other
microorganisms that can be in the wine that in fact would cause
the wine to spoil. That risk is always there. However, if you
keep a clean enough plant, and that's the thing that we try to
do the mostkeep the plant as clean as possible. If the plant
is really clean and sanitary, then what's positive about the
whole scenario is that you're allowed to do less to the product
and produce hopefully a better quality wine.
We think we've done that. We've gotten away from
filtration on practically everything that we've produced, other
than a wine that might have some residual sugar in it, like a
late harvest Riesling--that still will have to be polish-
filtered. Our Chardonnays now are only rough- filtered, very
coarsely filtered through diatonaceous earth, with the exception
of our reserves, and those are also, like all of our reds,
generally not filtered or fined in any way, shape, or form. So
that all plays a part I think in producing a better product for
A Smaller Winery- -The Personal Touch
Well, that's one change in both winemaking and equipment,
there other things that have changed?
Well, again, producing 20,000 or 25,000 cases, as a winemaker I
can focus my attention on those wines more than I can when I
produced a quarter of a million cases. Which is not to say--and
I want to make sure it's clearthat Chateau St. Jean isn't
doing a good job. Don Van Staaveren, who's the winemaster there
now, is a great winemaker doing a hell of a job. But there's
only so much time that he can devote to producing a given
quantity of top-quality wine, just as I did when I was there.
One of the other things that 1 had going against me when 1
was at Chateau St. Jean was that 1 was also involved with a lot
of the politics of the organization, being on the board, et
cetera. That took a lot of time away, and of course it seemed
they'd always like to have a board meeting in the middle of
harvest. I mean, do you want me to be a winemaker, or do you
want me to sit around and shuffle papers with the rest of the
Japanese businessmen? There's only so much one can do.
So here, we have a very centralized decision-making
process, only because we're small enough to be centralized.
Most of the time, centralization of decision-making is thought
to be negative. Here, because there's only one facility, it's
very easy and mostly positive.
How does the personal touch impact the wine?
Well, I think just because I'm out there, again, crushing every
load like I used to do at Chateau St. Jean, I see what's
happening, I get involved with the decision-making of the
processes of pressing, the racking, the clarification, the
fermentation, all the things that go along with making the
Hicke: Can you give me an example of how your being there might make
Arrowood: Well, on a daily basis, when I come into the office, I work with
our winemaker here very closely as to what the day's duties are
going to be. Granted, I'm not necessarily dragging hoses every
day, but during the harvest, I do a little of that, too.
Basically, other than that, I'm involved with the day-to-day
decision-making on what we're doing with a particular wine or
how the wine is being processed, the aging regime that it might
have. So specifically, it encompasses all of the winemaking
The difference between production on a larger scale, where
you're producing a half million cases of wine, and production
here, where you're producing 25,000 cases of wine, is that you
can identify the individual lots that you're working on and
taste them, stay on top of what's happening with the product, be
involved intimately with it. You can do much the same thing,
but on a much less personal basis, with a larger operation.
There's only so much time, only so much human time available to
spend on each individual lot . Arrowood Winery grew from only
two wines, Chardonnay and Cabernet, to now over eight different
lots that we deal with: starting with Chardonnay, Cabernet,
Her lot, we now have a Malbec program, and produce a little tiny
bit of Malbec. We also produce small quantities of Viognier, we
make Syrah, we make Finot Blanc, Late Harvest Riesling and
occasionally a Late Harvest Viognier.
That gives excitement and flexibility to our winemaking
program. You can spend the time necessary for the individual
product to make sure that not only is the quality assured, but
the quality is hopefully improved, improved based on the
attention that you give the wine. Now, here's the thing: you
start with the best grapesand we do our damnedest to secure
the best grapes. We've good relationships with many growers
throughout Sonoma County. We only buy in Sonoma County, and /or
grow in Sonoma County. If you start with the best, the things
that you're doing- -[tape interruption]
Okay, let's go on.
Well, again, as I say, if you start with the best fruit
available and you can give the attention to the detail of making
sure you're seeing it from the time the grapes come to the
crusher to the time the wine is put in the bottle and aged
further, that attention to detail requires a lot of dedication
and time. Other than not allowing the winemaking to interfere
too much with my "sporting clays" shooting and flyfishing- -you
have to set your priorities as you get older you know- -but other
than that, that's really what I focus on.
And in a large winery, would you spend more of your time on the
Arrowood: You'd spend a lot of your time on just internal operations and
the politics and everything else that's involved there. That
ties up at least 25 to 50 percent of your time.
Hicke: Is that right?
Arrowood: Absolutely. And so the good news about this is that, even
though we may be centralized in our decision-making, and
although we have a lot of decisions to make, still this is such
a small operation that you can focus on the things that you
really want to do. So it's not, "Gosh, we forgot to rack that
wine a month ago, we'd better get on it right now," it's like,
"Don't forget, we've got to remember to rack this wine tomorrow,
because it looks like--et cetera" and it's not just me telling
our winemaker, as winemaster, telling our winemaker what to do.
He sees a lot of this himself, but it's two heads doing some
thinking on the thing, so that you can pay attention and make
sure tasks are done the way they're done, the way they're
supposed to be done, and when they're supposed to be done.
All this sounds like it involves more manipulation, when
indeed it involves less manipulation. We're doing less to the
product, so we're letting the product settle naturally when we
rack, we don't add a lot of clarifying materials to the wine if
at all, but when we do add some materials to get them clearer,
we do it at the very end just prior to bottling. So we do as
much as possible let Mother Nature take its normal course,
making sure barrels are kept topped up, making sure that we do
the analysis in a timely fashion so that the analysis is useful
to us to make any decisions that have to be made on the health
of the product. You most certainly can do this on a larger
scale, but the wines can't take on the winemaker's personality
as much because you can't spend as much time on each individual
Hicke: That's a good comparison, I think, between the duties you
carried out at Chateau St. Jean and what you do here.
Arrowood: Yes. And again, I think the time I spent at St. Jean, the
majority of those sixteen years that I spent there, were really
a combination of either running the winery by myself or running
the winery in conjunction with others, which was primarily the
way it was towards the latter part of my career with them,
working with people that I had a lot of respect for and
unfortunately sometimes working with people I didn't have much
respect for, and those could interfere or add to, depends on how
you look at it, to how ultimately the wines would turn out.
The good news was, especially when we were starting to make
our name at Chateau St. Jean, I was pretty much left alone to be
able to do the winemaking aspects. That's how we built the
Chateau St. Jean name. It's interesting that a lot of the
information that comes out of the Chateau now doesn't even
mention my contribution to the winery. I never existed there.
You sort of expect that, but when they write you out of the
history of it, which I find kind of fascinating, it still seems
When I left, it was funny, because it felt like the old
building went from being a part of me to simply bricks and
mortar; it was just a shell of a building, nothing more. It
didn't really bother me. It really didn't, as much as I thought
Hicke: Made it easier to leave?
Arrowood: Much easier to leave, much easier to leave,
love, and it was here. [tape interruption]
Because 1 had a new
Yeasts and Fermentation
Hicke: Let me ask about yeasts and fermentation.
Arrowood: Well, a lot of the things that we're doing here revolve around
selected strains of yeast that we find work really well for a
particular type of variety of grape to work with. So for our
Chardonnays, we use probably three or four different yeast on a
continual basis anchored with prisse de mousse, as our primary
strain that we use. For Cabernet Sauvignon and the red
varieties, we use another cultured strain, combination of both
K-l, which is a Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and also prisse de
mousse, depending on how much fruitiness we want out of the
By and large, we do use almost all cultured yeast. We
don't encourage any, if you want to call it this, native
indigenous yeast. I'm not so sure that indigenous yeast ever
produce a natural fermentation. I've always believed in this
only because if a winery has been in business for a period of
time and has been spreading pomace in the vineyard and uses
cultured yeast, those cultured yeasts are going to establish
themselves not only in the winery building but in the vineyards
and on all the grapes. Therefore, I'm not so sure that you
could really classify them as indigenous yeast. I know a lot of
winemakers--David Ramey and a few othersdo a fair amount of
this and feel very strongly about it. We tried this on one
small lot of Chardonnay last year. It worked, but it didn't
excite me as having better flavor profile or mouth feel or
anything else that those using native yeast fermentation were
talking about. We took steps to make sure that it was as
indigenous as possible. But I'm really not sure that our own
cultured yeast didn't somehow start the fermentation after all.
The thing that I think is so important to us is that with
yeast types, what I'm really looking for is a clean, expected,
uniform fermentation without the need to add a tremendous amount
of additional nutrient. We do use yeast food in most of our
fermentations just to make sure that there's enough micro-
nutrients available for the fermentation to go to completeness.
But right now it's more of an avoidance thing, making sure you
get a good strain that does avoid the production of sulfides and
other compounds that can lead to off-odors and things that can
eventually become part of the finished product, as compared to
what major beneficial complexity does this particular yeast
offer versus others.
There are some that produce more fruity fermentations, and
ergo fruitier wines. There are some that have less of that
fruity component to it, and you can mix and match on that basis.
But there are so many cultured yeasts to choose from out there,
I don't know that I need to risk the "indigenous," "native,"
"wild yeast" fermentations. I'm not convinced yet. Doesn't
mean I can't change my mind, but I'm still learning. Never say
never. I've said never too many times in the past. I never
thought when I was at Chateau St. Jean that I'd ever consider,
and now have, full-fledged production of "no filtration" reds.
We used to do little experimental lots, but now all of our red
wines are being bottled unfiltered. It's been that way for
several years, and I think we've produced better wines because
of it. If we didn't keep as clean a facility, maybe we couldn't
do that. Like any other winery [owner], I do worry a little bit
about brettanomyces and other spoilage yeast like dekkora and
the like. Since we're aware of it, we try to keep a clean
facility, and keeping that clean facility allows us, I think,
the freedom to again do some of the things that we do.
Since our wines are stable when they're bottled, vis-a-vis
not malic positive and no residual fermentable sugar left in the
product, there's not much that's likely to happen. We use a
little bit of S0 2 at the time of bottling, so not much is going
to put the wine at spoilage risk.
Hicke: You can test for that?
Arrowood: Oh, yes. Absolutely. In minimal quantities, you're going to
see some spoilage microbes that grapes have naturally occurring
on them. It's just how much we let them get a foothold on the
juice and wine. The dirtier a facility, the more chance they
have to survive and propagate. Now, there are some wine writers
that believe that perhaps a little of that adds complexity. The
problem is, how do you control a little versus a contamination
situation? So we want to keep it as subdued as possible by
keeping things as clean as possible, and not take a chance with
that. Because I don't think the flavor nuances that are given
to be derived from a brettanomyces infection are worth the
chance that you're taking to get that extra little bit of
complexity. Sometimes it's good, most of the time it's not so
good; actually, I'd say the majority of the time, it's not so
Hicke: To switch topics here, tell me about cooperage.
Arrowood: Well, we've done a lot of experimentation with various oaks,
trying to find what we consider to be the best cooperage houses.
I would say for the most part, at least for our reds, we've now
zeroed in on one primary house, which is kind of unusual to do,
but they have been very consistent for us and they have worked
very well to retain our business. The company is Seguin Moreau
[Napa Cooperage] for our French oak, for our reds, and in
addition we've been doing some experimentation on American oak
that they've also produced for our reds. We've experimented
with other American oak but had some mixed results: some good,
some not so good. By and large, Seguin Moreau has done a very,
very good job for us, and we plan to continue with them as our
primary source for outstanding cooperage.
As far as our white wines are concerned, we've been
primarily using the cooperage house of Claude Gillet, and
besides Gillet, we've just started to increase our orders for
cooperage from the Louis Latour firm. To my knowledge Latour
barrels are the most expensive French oak you can find in the
marketplace today. They're well over $725 apiece; very
expensive, but they do impart a very unique and very special
hazelnut toastiness to the wine that we really like. It seems
to be worth it. We've used some barrels from Daragauld Jagle,
and also have experimented with some barrels from Tarransaud.
In addition, we've experimented with barrels from Francois
Frere. But I would say right now, our leaning is going to be
towards more Louis Latour barrels. They are terribly expensive,
but the overall quality is, again, exceptional.
Hicke: How long do you use the barrels?
Arrowood: Normally, four or five years tops, Louis Latour maybe six.
Louis Latour 's actually give us another year, almost two years,
not because they're expensive, it's Just the stays are thicker
and they seem to last a little longer and the flavor continues
to be given up. And of course, with our second label, we have a
spot for those older barrels for a year or two. Then we
eventually sell them to somebody else.
The only thing that was negative with the Gillet barrels, I
will say, is that it just seemed like there was a period of time
there where he wasn't getting as fully dried wood as we wanted,
and I think some of them were a little more sappy than they
should have been. That problem was solved, and we're now doing
much, much better with them. I was the first person to bring in
Claude Gillet barrels at Chateau St. Jean. I brought the first
six into the country, way back in 1975 and '76, I guess it was.
Hicke: How did you find them?
Arrowood: Just by pure chance. I was touring Burgundy on one of my trips,
and a friend said, "I want you to meet M. Gillet," and then on
the next trip after I met Alis, and since Alis is a French
Canadian fluent in French, we went over and again met with
Claude. Unfortunately he speaks no English at all, so Alis
bargained for both Chateau St. Jean and a couple of other
wineries to bring in the first couple of containers of his
barrels, and his export business has kind of grown from there.
I believe he now sells to a lot of wineries: Kenwood, Souverain,
Ferrari-Carano, Chateau St. Jean, and a few others. He's a
great guy, but for us, as we go along, 1 think we used Gillet at
the time because they were more reasonable than some of the
other barrels, and they were very, very good. But now, very,
very good is not as important to me as exceptional. As we can
afford to buy exceptional, we do exceptional. Doesn't mean he
can't produce more exceptional cooperage; he just needs a little
more time on his drying and wood selection.
Seguin Moreau produces exceptional wood. They're
expensive; they're not as expensive as Latour, but they are
expensive. They make some great American oak, which is probably
some of the most expensive American oak you can buy. You're
paying upwards of $200 apiece for them, but I'm more excited
about what we see out of that for the potential of the blend-in.
We've always used American oak in our red program. It's been
anywhere from 20 to 30 percent; right now we're at right about
25 percent American oak for the red program. We've experimented
with some American oak for our white program in the second
label, and it's worked okay for the second label. It's just too
coarse of an oak for most white wines, but if you use a little
bit of new American oak and blend that in with some older French
oak, it appears to work fine, for, again, our second label.
Hicke: When you say a coarse oak, you don't mean the texture of the
Arrowood: No, I mean the flavor impartation is more coarse, the palate is
coarser. Therefore, if it was all American oak we were using, I
feel it would be too much. The big difference is that if you're
selling the Chardonnay meant to retail for around twenty dollars
a bottle, you should be able to afford the best oak possible.
If you have a Chardonnay that you're selling for a suggested
retail of eight, nine, or ten dollars a bottle, it's a little
harder to justify using the most expensive oak.
Hicke: Do you specify the amount of toasting?
Arrowood: We have in the past, but right now, like Louis Latour barrels,
most of them are medium, medium heavy, to heavy toast. We tell
them what we want to use them for, for example, Chardonnay, and
they toast accordingly. Gillet is almost all heavy toast, for
Chardonnay purposes. Seguin Moreau we don't specify toast
levels at all. I tell them, "We're going to be putting in
Cabernet and its related sister varieties; give me what you've
been giving me. Don't change it." So the toast level we have
is probably, I'd say, medium-plus.
Bottles and Corks
Hicke: How about bottles? Corks?
Arrowood: Well, with wine bottles, not too bad. We've more or less done
all right . We bounce all over the map with whomever has the
proper bottle mold. Right now we're with California Glass
Company, and of course, they bring in glass from a lot of
different suppliers. We're using some of the import bottles for
our reserve Chardonnay, our Pinot Blanc, our Viognier. Our
Syrah will be going into that package also when we bottle it in
August. That was a new package that we brought in because it
fit the style of the image we wish to project.
I think that glass has not been a major problem in general,
at least not currently. I mean, there were always problems.
You order a particular mold type, they can't get that; they get
you a different finish, the neck finish doesn't match the
capsules. There's always been all sorts of fun with that, but
that's typical. It's just, no matter how much you stay on top
of it, no matter how much attention you give it, there's always
something that lurks in the back, and that's why you have to
have some flexibility. We're not big enough to warehouse
thousands and thousands of cases of glass, so we try to plan
when we're going to need glass way in advance. Sometimes it
works, other times it doesn't. It's all part of dealing with
your packaging suppliers.
Cork has been another story. We have been all over the map
with corks, but I am pleased to say that we stuck with one
supplier through thick and thin, which is Cork Supply
International. We're currently using their peroxide bleached
corks, which seem to have avoided a lot of the "corked"
character you get from time to time. It has been discovered
that the cause of the cork taint problem was mostly a problem
with corks that had been bleached and chlorinated. Chlorinated
corks can have formed in the pores of the cork a compound called
trichloro anisole. A very odiferous substance that smells of
wet, moldy wood and can be detected in as small amounts as 5 to
10 parts per trillion!
The first thing we did was get away from chlorine bleached
corks and get into unbleached corks . That reduced the problem
considerably, but it didn't eliminate it, I don't know why. I
suspect some chlorine bleached material was finding its way into
the lots. More research was done on the cork suppliers' end,
and then the peroxide bleached corks came outvery expensive,
but much less problems with corked bottles of wine were found.
Not eliminated, mind you, but greatly reduced. I mean, we still
get an occasional "corked" bottle. But not to the extent that
it used to be. There was a time when we could have had as much
as 1 to 3 percent of corked bottles! That's scary. Many
wineries had higher incidences than that. We had a batch of
corks that we found on the last two pallets of 1989 Chardonnay,
that never got out of this winery, where the bag that was used
to make those two corks was completely tainted.
The bag they were shipped in?
The bag they were shipped in. I mean, we didn't even know it
until at the very end of our release when we found every bottle
corked, that we sampled. We stamped them, "Not for
consumption," and they did what they wanted with them.
How did you find it?
[laughs] We pulled the cork on a bottle of wine and poured it,
and it was dreadful. It was one of the last bottles at the end
of the run, and it just happened to be that we grabbed one of
those. So I started going through and I pulled another one and
another one and another one, and I said, "We've got a problem
here." Then I went up to the last bag, because we marked our
bags of thousand, and smelled the bag, there was still some left
in it , and it would bowl you over with the amount of that corky
component to it .
So they didn't argue with us, took it back,
probably close to a $15,000 hit for them.
That was only fair.
Arrowood: Well, sure, exactly. It was something that just had to be dealt
with. But since that time, [knocks on wood] we've had very,
very few problems. When the so-called tin lead capsule problem
came about, for a little company trying to survive, that
couldn't have happened at a worse time. It was the best thing
that we ever did, however, because we got the right spinner that
handled the new tin capsules and gave our line a little better
resiliency, as far as its ability to produce the number of
bottles per minute we want. We still only bottle twenty-seven
to twenty-nine bottles a minute, but it does the quality job we
Hicke: Where did you get that bottling machine?
Arrowood: That came from Enotech. It's a six-head Italian spinner called
a Norton spinner. Before that, of course, we were using tin
lead; which was more malleable, so we could get away with a one-
headed spinner. Now we needed a six-head spinner that would do
the job for us, but this machine would take care of tin and
would do it at the speeds that we wanted to, and if we ever
decide to expand the line, it has the capability to do up to
about fifty bottles a minute.
The tin lead thing was typical, I think- -a hoax foisted on
the industry from Prop. 65, a provision for the neo-Pros to use
against the wine industry. It was a way the neo-Prohibitionists
could get into the wine [challenge the wine industry], because,
well, "60 Minutes" hadn't occurred yet, but there was all sorts
of talk about the benefits of moderate consumption of wine and
this, that, and the other, and this was one of the few things
that they could do; so they tried to attack us on the tin lead
basis, which really was a smokescreen. What they really wanted
was to prohibit wine production and eventual consumption.
Nonetheless, we switched over and went to tin. A lot of
people have gone to the clear seal and the different type of
lips on the bottle and so on and so forth, but for us right now,
I think this is going to be the way we want to deal with it. I
don't think I want to switch over to the foiless bottle. Tin is
expensive and that little situation probably conservatively cost
this company over $150,000 in equipment and materials. Tin
capsules are double the price of tin lead, but they don't have
any lead in them, so I guess that's fine.
Hicke: Let me ask about labels. Tell me how you got your original one,
and how that has evolved.
Arrowood: The first label was designed sort of in house, if you will. We
try to keep things as much as possible in the family. My
brother-in-law, who designed the label, is a graphic artist
living in Montreal, Canada. He'd done another wine label for a
vermouth company, but it was really the only table wine label
he'd ever produced. Jacques Roy came up with the label at his
company "Design Communications."
We went out and looked at a lot of different wine labels .
I showed him what I liked -and what I didn't like. I had many
graphic artists make presentations to us of labels that were
more avant-garde and would have been great for a year or two and
then destined for the junk pile. So we wanted something that
had a little more traditional staying power to it and that
looked more like a traditional style of label. So we went
through and just looked at all the different things and said,
"Here's what we like, here's what we don't like," and he came up
with several different designs. The final one that we came on
with is the one that we are currently using. Very traditional,
fairly staid, but I think it's one that will be with us for a
long time, I believe.
And you've kept the same label?
Yes, haven't really changed it.
Other Labels: Domaine du Grand Archer; Smothers Brothers
Arrowood: And of course, I mentioned we have a second label, the Domaine
du Grand Archer, or we just call it the "Grand Archer." And we
make a little bit of wine for the Smothers brothers, Remick
Ridge Ranch label. We have done that since the first wine we
produced for them in '88. I've known Tom and Dick for as long
as 1--I think I met them the first time through my father, who
was the escrow officer who closed the deal on Pat Paulsen's
place in Cloverdale and so I knew Pat through my dad, and then I
was introduced to the Smothers brothers through Pat Paulsen.
This was back in 1974, and I've known them since then, so it's
been, what, twenty, twenty-one years.
Hicke: Since we're on that subject, I did want to ask you how you made
the arrangements with them.
Arrowood: It just was one of those things that worked. Tom wanted to
continue with his own label after the winery was dismantled in
Santa Cruz. They had several wineries making their wines for a
period of time. They still produce their Mom's Favorite Red or
Mom's Favorite White, that's done by another winery and also at
their own facility. I think that it's just been a friendship
that's gone on for a long, long period, one of those things
that's worked both socially and in business, because we have
good mutual friendship and trust of one another.
Frankly I do it for a reason. First of all, he's a friend.
Secondly, we do use his grapes occasionally; he accounts for up
to 35 percent of the fruit we bring in from Sonoma Valley, one
of our largest growers last year and one of our largest this
year. We bring in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot,
and he and his wife Marcy have got some excellent quality fruit.
I want to continue receiving that fruit, so this is just another
way to insure that we both can benefit from the relationship.
We don't make any money really at it, doing this. It's
sort of a break-even type proposition. But it gives him some
wine that he's pleased with, coming from Remick Ridge Ranch,
which is where he and his wife Marcy and son Bo live. They have
about 130 plus acres with 26 to 29 acres under cultivation. I'd
like them to expand on it a little bit and try to bring it up to
near thirty-five acres perhaps.
Vineyards and Vineyard Management
Hicke: That's kind of a good lead-in, because I wanted to go back and
ask you how you get your grapes and about the general vineyard
Arrowood: Well, our sources of fruit have been from various vineyards
throughout Sonoma County, through the different grower
relationships that I've had over the years since I've been in
the business. I started in 1965. This is my thirtieth year in
the business, so I've had a chance to meet a lot of growers who
have gone with me from one winery to the next. I don't get a
tremendous amount of tonnage from many of them, because we're so
small. But we've been able to tie up some pretty good long-term
contractual arrangements with many of the people that I've known
for a long time. There are the dedicated growers who have
helped to make us as successful as we've become.
Also, Alis and I, now that we've been successful enough,
have started to branch out a little bit, locking in some of the
vineyards. We have a little ten-acre parcel up in Healdsburg
that we're in the midst of bringing under lease /purchase option,
and that's all in Merlot and a little, tiny bit of Malbec. We
hopefully have a relationship that will be developing again
under a lease /purchase situation like our neighbor next door,
and I suspect that that will be the case.
By and large, the majority of fruit we have, 75-80 percent
of the fruit, is under long-term contracts. So it's through
relationships that I've had over the years, and it's worked
pretty well, and very few growers have jumped on board and
jumped off or vice versa.
Hi eke: Well, that answers my question about long-term contracts.
Arrowood: Yes, most of these are all what we call three-year, evergreen-
type contracts, so they just continue to renew themselves every
year if neither party gives notice to terminate, and that's a
comfortable one, because if somebody says, "Well, I've sold my
vineyard, I'm taking off," that's great, but what do I do now
for the following year? Say for example Kendall-Jackson is
going to take it over, we at least have three years to replace
that vineyard, if they decide that they don't want to sell to
us. A couple of those properties have changed hands and the
growers that have purchased the vineyard have said, "Jeez, no,
we don't want to change; we want to continue. Let's continue.
You want more fruit, you want us to plant some more?" that kind
of thing. So it's been just the opposite of what you might
worry about, but it's nice to have those assigns to the
different parties if they change ownership, at least you have
time to react to it.
Hicke: What is your participation in the decisions about harvesting the
Arrowood: Basically, total. The contracts are what we call a mutual
cooperative type viticultural work, so that we suggestwe don't
dictate to the grower what to do, but we suggest the things that
we want done. Pricing, of course, is discussed openly, and
we've never had to go to the bargaining table on arbitration to
decide on prices, because it never gets to that point. If you
want the fruit, you want the fruit, so what makes sense? But
it's sort of a cooperative effort, if you will, on the growth of
the fruit, crop levels, everything else.
We're working with growers, to give you an example, like
Saralee and Richard Kunde. These are Just two, out of many
growers that we have, but two of the nicest people you'd ever
want to deal with.
Hicke: Out of Alexander Valley?
No, they're in Russian River Valley. They have Sonoma
Grapevines, which produces a good number of the rootstock and
bench grafts for California viticulture and all around the
United States, in fact. They're very cooperative and very, very
agreeable to just about anything you want. They put the
Viognier in for us, put some Pinot Blanc in. They always say,
"Would you like to try this? How about some Syrah?" For me
it's like a kid in a candy store. It's great, because they're
extremely helpful, and do whatever you want. And that I like.
I like to work with people like that. Plus they're very
pleasant to deal with, although they want a return on their
investment too, and they have every right to expect that. The
response is, What can we do to help you? What can we do to make
the fruit better? We need to cut back over here a little bit.
All right, we'll do it. Drop half the fruit on the ground,
fine, whatever you want.
What do they do actually? Are they a nursery?
They have Sonoma Grapevines, so they propagate and produce bench
grafts, propagate nursery rootstock, and vines. And they sell
widely; I'm sure we're just a small portion of their total
marketing effort. I think we only probably buy maybe 10, 15
percent, but we use Saralee's Vineyard on our Pinot Blanc and on
our Viognier and on the Syrah, so they get a little recognition
on a vineyard designate on our program. They own the vineyards.
They plant whatever we want. So they're nice to work with.
It's been a pleasure to deal with people like that. In addition
both Saralee and Richard support Sonoma County's agribusiness
possibly to a greater extent than anyone else in the county.
Occasionally you get a few growers that don't understand,
and they don't do it for a business, and so everything's extra
crazy at the time of harvest. When that happens more than a
couple of times, you usually look elsewhere, because you've got
to have people that are mentally capable of doing these things.
It doesn't happen very often, though. I would say in my history
of winemaking, it's probably four or five growers out of all
those years that I've just not wanted to work with further, and
a couple of those growers I can think of were only a problem
Just because they were in a different county besides Sonoma. In
other areas, it was just that they weren't attuned to what the
winery's needs were to produce the best wine.
You know, winemakers are all--we're a crazy bunch. There's
no doubt about it.
But most winemakers are passionate in what
Arrowood: Yes,. I guess it bodes well for explaining why we're a little on
the nutty side. But if you want to try to produce a product,
hand-craft a product that is singularly interesting and complex
and flavorful and desirable by the public, you have to have the
cooperationor grow your ownyou have to have the cooperation
of the grower to make sure Mother Nature gives you her best
potential. Otherwise you can't do your job. Your palette is
limited. You don't get any blues and greens to paint with; you
only get red and yellow.
Hicke: [laughs] And white.
Arrowood: That's right, and lots of white. And that's no fun. So it
takes that type of cooperation.
Hicke : Do you have anything to say about canopy management and other
Arrowood: Well, we try our best to make sure that as soon as that fruit
sets, we do open the fruit to the sunlight; we thin leaves as
much as possible, and our shoot thinning is done as early as
possible. If you think about it, on most fruit crops, when you
go through and thin, what do you thin for? Size of fruit. What
do you thin apples for? To get littler apples? No. You thin
it because you want to get bigger apples. What happens when you
thin grapes? If you thin at the wrong time, they'll bloat in
size. They'll make up for less crop. I've seen it done time
and time again: you drop half the crop on the ground, what
happens to the berries? They get bigger. It's not what you
want them to do, right? Well. And so that's the whole thing.
After all, table grapes are sized in much the same way.
So it's when you crop thin, that's very important; if you
do it early, the berries don't get too exceptionally big, but
the intensity is markedly improved. Plus if you dense plant the
vineyards so you have more vines per acre, more energy to less
fruit on more vines, and the nutrients are shared among more
vines, it tends to be devigorated and therefore it just gives
the energy it needed to just a few clusters. Instead of having
fifteen or twenty pounds per vine, maybe you only have two or
three or four pounds per vine, makes a big difference. And if
you do it early, if you make sure if there's any thinning
necessary you do it early, the vines don't tend to pump the
berries up. But if you do it later in the season, the berries
I can give you examples of cases where we've dropped 50
percent of the fruit on the ground and still thought there was
too much halfway in the growing season. The berries were
already sized. We dropped another 25 percent, and we still
harvested seven tons to the acre off of that vineyard, and it
shocked the hell out of us, because we thought we should have
had only about three tons to the acre. And that was because
those berries got bigger. That's not what you want to do. So
you have to understand, canopy management is good, and that's
very important, especially with Cabernet and Chardonnay, but
especially Cabernet, to get rid of that vegetative character, to
get sunlight on it early so the grapes don't burn, you open it
up, and plus they get air flow, and that's very, very good. But
when you size your crop I think is just as important, when you
go through and decide what you want to do; and the earlier the
better, but not before set. Don't--a lot of people say--go out
and thin those shoots. Don't, don't take off the frame clusters
before they fertilize themselves and set.
Hicke: What about irrigation?
Arrowood: Well, most of the vineyards we deal with now have a system where
they can be dripped if necessary, and irrigation is not
necessarily a bad thing if it's done properly, but where
irrigation becomes a problem is when it's just done: "Every
year we irrigate at this time." No plan, no need, just rote
Hicke: Without thought.
Arrowood: Exactly. You look at the soil profile and find out the moisture
content in the soil profile and find out where it is, and then
react on that basis.
Hicke: And do you work with the growers on this?
Arrowood: Very much so.
Hicke: Do you depend on their judgment?
Arrowood: We depend a lot on their own expertise, but we've talked with
them on occasion as to what they think, and should we go ahead
and drip this or not, or this, that, and the other. For the
most part however, most of our growers handle that on their own.
We don't have to go in and babysit them. That's why we have the
growers that we do. They are the professionals and know their
land better than anyone else.
Hicke: I'm not even going to ask about phylloxera.
Arrowood: Well, yes, phylloxera is manifesting itself like everybody has
seen, but I think it's more of a blessing in disguise. Now,
it's hard to tell that to somebody who's just had to replant and
spend hundreds of thousands to do so, but in the long run, it's
going to come back to give us a better quality product. It's
just going to improve this industry. There's no doubt in my mind
about it. It's painful right now, but it's going to have a
purgative effect, and it's going to be far better when it's all
Hicke: Okay. Switching over to the marketing aspect, how did you
determine your price niche, to start off with?
Arrowood: We used the SWAG methodyou know, the scientific, wild-ass
guess. [laughter] You try to decide what your competitive
universe is and where you want to do your market fighting. We
decided the ultra-premium category is where we thought we could
make our biggest statement, so that's what we did.
VI SONOMA COUNTY
[Interview 3: February 6, 1996)11
Evolution of Winegrowing
Since we're going to talk to Alis about the marketing, I'm
going to skip that part with you, and what I'd like to do is
to go back a little bit and talk about Sonoma County wines in
general, and how you think that they have evolved. What was
it like when you first came, as compared with what it is now?
Well, I think the more things have changed in Sonoma County,
the more they remain the same . I think Sonoma County growers
have always felt uneasy about the second-place seat that
somehow the press has managed to give to Sonoma over Napa,
which is really unfortunate, because if youit's a cliche,
I'm sure, but I'll say it anyway- -if you look at all the
awards given to wineries in California over the past ten,
fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years even, the vast
majority goes to Sonoma County, far in excess of any other
Now, I'm not trying to be altruistic towards Sonoma
County against Napa, but we are a fine -wine -growing region
and I don't think we're second to anybody, any more than Napa
is second to anybody.
No, and it's also interesting, I think we may have discussed
that wine-growing actually started here--
Absolutely. Commercial viticulture occurred right here in
Sonoma Valley back in the early days.
I wonder how Napa got this reputation.
R. Arrowood: Well, the old joke about it is that Napa has the sizzle and
Sonoma 's got the steak. I think what really you have here is
the situation that Napa has done its promotion a lot better
than Sonoma has in the past, and they've done very, very well
with it. There's no doubt about it, there's still an
impression in the press, for instance--! '11 give you a
personal examplethat Napa County makes the best Cabernet,
Sonoma County makes the best Chardonnay. Where in fact, I
think that both counties have some equal examples of great
successes, many successes, in both arenas; 1 just think
they're different. Just as Pomerol is different from
Pauillac is different than St. Julien is different than St.
Estephe or St. Emilion. 1 mean, they're all different areas,
and the appellations and the viticultural areas within those
appellations give different flavors and nuances. I don't
know that you can say that one is best. I mean, anybody can
say it, but the problem is, I guess, I don't know that you
could definitively prove to somebody that one is better over
I think Sonoma County was chosen by me [because of] two
things: that obviously, we go to Sonoma County only because
I'm a native here, so that's the prejudicial issue of it.
Secondly, I really believe inside that there are more
variables in the viticultural areas, the microclimates, in
Sonoma County than in any other area in California. There's
just more to choose from.
When we say fine grapes from Sonoma County, fine wines
from Sonoma County, that covers an awfully large spectrum for
us, and we're very little. It covers a very large spectrum
for many wineries. Take Chateau St. Jean, for instance. I
believe they're still, if I'm not mistaken, if they're not
100 percent from Sonoma County, they're close to 100 percent
from Sonoma County. They believe in that, and we believe in
it, because the choices and the opportunities are just so
many that if you can't find a spot in Sonoma County to make
what you want, then you're really not looking hard enough,
because the growing areas, soil types, the geology, the
geography of the county itself is so varied, you ought to be
able to do just about anything you want to do, from Pinot
Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon. Two extremes of cool to warmer
climate fruit, and everything in between.
So Sonoma Countyit's not necessarily evolved, it's
just been more rediscovered, I guess, than what it was in the
Hicke: What about appellations? Have you been involved in that?
R. Arrowood: Yes, actually, I was on the first group that put together the
Sonoma appellationSonoma Valleyand defined it, when the
government was holding their appellation hearings, which
unfortunately was a bit of a folly, because if you're really
going to define an appellation, you have to define it
geographically and not politically. And the problem is, they
were originally designed geographicallywatershed areas, et
cetera- -but then the boundaries started getting skewed
because it had to do with politics.
When I was a kid growing up, Alexander Valley ended way
before it was right at Zanzies Corner, so to speak, just
this side of Asti. Now, Alexander Valley goes to the
Mendocino County line. Well, that's absurd. Cloverdale is
not in Alexander Valley, never has been, never will be;
except by political statement from the BATF, it is now in
Alexander Valley. I shudder to think that southern Sonoma
may end up in northern Bakersfield. [laughter] It's just-
it's a little crazy, but I just think that the politics
played more important roles, and you had some growers on the
cusp, and they're saying, "Well, damnit, my vineyard should
be in Alexander Valley." Of course, it never was before, but
all of a sudden now, because Alexander Valley has more
meaning, for instance, as an example, now they want to be a
player, want to be a part of that. I mean, I can't blame
them, but 1 can't say that it's correct.
Sonoma Valley: we enlarged Sonoma Valley per se to
include Bennett Valley. Now, there's nothing wrong with
Bennett Valley fruit, but Bennett Valley has quite a bit
different soil conditions and heat summations than Sonoma
Valley has. And it's a different watershed. But
politically, we've sort of had to do that.
The person who did the most work, I suppose, on Sonoma
Valley appellation was John Merritt, Bandiera Winery, and Jim
Bunds chu. Both of them put in a tremendous amount of time
helping develop the Sonoma Valley appellation, but at the
time I was president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners
Association, and when we put that through, I think, if I'm
not mistaken--! could be wrong here but I think Sonoma
Valley was the first appellation actually approved. If it
wasn't, it would be second only to Napa, but I'm almost
positive Sonoma was the first one that was approved.
It's interesting that, at least for myself, I think of Sonoma
County wines and not Sonoma Valley wines.
Oh, and me too. I mean, we're in Sonoma Valley, but we buy
fruit from all over Sonoma County, so that the fact of the
matter is, I think we grow some great grapes here in Sonoma
Valley, but it isn't necessarily the finest of the fine of
every particular variety. It has every particular varietal
produced and every variety grown. I think that you can find
spots. I mean, Sonoma Valley has a lot of very different
microclimates within itself, from Sonoma Mountain all the way
to Cameros, as you know.
But I think that what you have to look at is that I
don't want to limit our palette of painting colors to just
one specific appellation, one viticultural area within that
appellation. So although Sonoma Valley is an important one--
in fact, a very important one to us--as it accounts for 35-
plus to 40 percent of our total production- -we like to look
at Alexander Valley, we like to look at Dry Creek, we like to
look at Knights Valley, we like to look at Russian River
Valley, and all those areas in between, and they are to play
a part in bringing out the complexity of the wines that we
Do you use the appellations on your labels?
Well, generally, with a couple of vineyard-designated
exceptions in Russian River Valley, mainly Saralee's
Vineyard, and also the Preston Ranch and Oak Meadow Vineyards
for late harvest Riesling in Russian River Valley, we don't
have any vineyard-specific appellation. So basically Sonoma
County is the main appellation we use, and then within the
Sonoma County appellation, we will tell you on the back label
what viticulture areas in Sonoma County the grapes came from.
So other than some Viognier that says Saralee's Vineyard,
Russian River Valley, other than some Syrah that says
Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, and a few late
harvest Rieslings, everything is Sonoma County appellation.
Vineyards; Growth and Replanting
Tell me about the growth of vineyards in the county.
R. Arrowood: Well, certainly with the rediscovery of phylloxera and its
infestation within the county, it's starting to change the
landscape quite a bit with replanting, but that's all a very
positive move. It's the old silver lining in the black
cloud, because people are able to be replanting the true, if
you willtrue vineyard-specific sites are being planted with
the right grape to the right area.
Sonoma County, unfortunately, up until twenty, twenty-
five years ago, had a lot of commons planted. There were
some fine things planted, but there was still a lot of common
fruit out there. Fortunately, pioneers like Robert Young and
Ron and Henry Dick and Russ Green and Dale Goode and people
like this that did a lot of work, and Rod Strong, for that
matter, did a lot of work in various areas of Alexander
Valley and Russian River Valley. They upgraded the vineyards
from the more common varietals like Zinfandel, Early
Burgundy, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Vert, Berger, etc. to
Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.
Now, when I use the word common: in those days,
Zinfandel was considered common, but old Zinfandel today is
anything but common, because you can make some exquisite
wines [from old vines]. The finest Zinfandels being produced
are coming here from Sonoma County and perhaps Amador County.
I don't think Napa is necessarily even considered a major
player in the Zinfandel area. Dry Creek Valley certainly is
a major Zinfandel producer.
It's taken some time, but I think that probably in the
last twenty years, the evolution in Sonoma has made it a much
more sophisticated viticultural area than what it was thought
to be many years ago. In that twenty years, a lot has
happened. Part of the sophistication, I suppose you could
say, is because we as winemakers, not just one winemaker, but
we as a group of winemakers have done a lot of pioneering in
developing vineyard-specific varietals--many vineyards within
one variety that all have different flavor nuances and
that's certainly helped it. We may have been a little bit
before our time as we started doing this.
And for me, again, I've been there, done that, and I
think it's great, but for the time being, anyway, I think I
can produce at least a better noncommercial but very exciting
and available wine, to some extent, by using the various
positives from each of the vineyards, viticultural areas, to
produce a whole that's better than each of its individual
So I may go back if I find another property. We talked
about this earlier, but you have to consider people like
Robert Young. I mean, there's a large chunk of land that
encompasses Robert Young Vineyards, and a good chunk of that
land is dedicated to Chardonnay, so if Chateau St. Jean uses
the various blocks of Robert Young Chardonnay, they're not
necessarily growing out of viticultural areas, but there are
microclimactic differences within all the different blocks.
So they have one large vineyard that has a lot of different
microclimactic influences, and those influences basically
result in what is almost you could almost have a Robert
Young Vineyards appellation within Alexander Valley. I mean,
if the French can have a 4.5 acre appellation in Condrieu
called Chateau Grillet, I mean, why not? We're silly if we
don't think that we have those microclimates in that large
plot of land, because we certainly do.
So to that extent, there are a lot of things that we
could do to paint the palette within that area. And we had
other vineyard-specific sites that we dealt with again when I
was at Chateau St. Jean. I just decided to go the other
direction, saying, Well, I don't have one particular grower
that has enough fruit or a large enough vineyard area. Now,
as we grow and develop more leases and /or purchases, we may
choose to do some of that, some vineyard-specific sites, and
go back into vineyard-designated wines to some extent. I'm
not making an announcement here, I'm just speculating, but
we're certainly keeping that door open and we may choose to
Fruit and Blending
You know, it strikes me as you were talking that the interest
in blending that has developed, various Bordeaux blends and
Heritage and all that, is not consumer-driven; is it the
interest in the winemakers and winemasters in finding
Yes. I think the consumer-driven thing comes only from the
result of you producing a product that the consumer says,
"This is great. We'll buy some, and we'll buy some more, and
we'll buy some more." They're voting with their dollars, so
I think that it is consumer-driven to the extent that if you
produce a product that somebody likes, they'll come back to
it. But to simply use a vineyard-specific site as a name on
a label and not have something that's so "definitively"
different and so exceptional, like Robert Young Vineyards, or
like Belle Terre Vineyards, is playing on that- -that game
that people do play quite often, and that is put vineyard-
specific names on labels that may not have site specific
characteristicsthe French word for this is "terroir." In
fact , who knows what Smith Vineyards or Jones Vineyards or
Mr. White or Mr. Green or Mr. Black have that's so unique and
I mean, we've proven that there is something unique and
special about the grapes that come from Robert Young
Vineyards. We've proven that there's something unique and
special that comes from Belle Terre Vineyards. The same goes
for Saralee's Vineyards in Russian River Valley. Certainly,
Joe Heitz has proven that something unique and special comes
from Martha's Vineyard, and the Fay Vineyard, and Ridge has
done that with their production of Cabernet from specific
vineyard sites, and so on and so forth. Pinot Noirs produced
by Calera, the different blocks that Josh Jensen has right by
the winery there, they are different; the soils are slightly
different, the chemistry of the soils is different, and the
wines taste different because of that, and he identifies them
the same way.
And I have no reason to doubt it, because we identified
all the Chardonnays at St. Jean the same way as we do here;
we identify all of our Chardonnay lots separately, we just
choose to blend them at the very end. But before we finally
put it together, we taste them, and note that there's a big
difference between each of the vineyards within the
viticultural areas, and even within the same viticultural
area there's a big difference.
In general, I think what you're saying is the winemaster
blends and tries new ideas, and then responds to the
consumer's response. But then when you find something that's
very successful, why do you keep on changing styles or trying
Well, I don't know that we are. I mean, to the extent that
it is successful and it works, that's great. The problem is,
will it continue to be successful? That's what happens. You
have to be careful that once you develop a system--! mean, if
you're ahead of everybody else, over time, people will catch
up with you. So I forget who said that you never want to
look over your shoulder because something might be gaining on
you. I've always lived by an opposite philosophy, and that
is I always look over my shoulder, because I want to see
what's gaining on me, so I can decide to either speed up or
maybe we can coast a little bit.
And I think you always have to [continue to] develop:
have you made the penultimate wine from a specific vineyard?
And if you've really identified that, and you have a
particular house style that you have with that, there's no
sense in changing it for the time being, but there may be
sense in changing it three or four or five or ten years down
the road, as somebody else catches up and more styles are
produced that are similar to that, and you want to be
Now, that means that you're just trying to do something
different for the sake of being different. I suppose part of
that's true, but on the other side of the coin, if you do it
correctly, it says that you are open-minded enough. And
speaking for myself [laughs], I'm not a very open-minded
person; it takes me a long time to decide that, Okay, I want
to change it. I have to see it enough times to be able to do
it correctly. As you know, my avocation is shotgun sports
shooting, I like to shoot sporting clays, and I really enjoy
shotgun shooting. But I could liken it the same way: I have
to see a target presented to me several times, and I have to
shoot at it several times, and it has to be in that same
position to finally decide, Okay, this is how you break this
target, this is how you do it. So you practice, and you
practice again, and you practice again.
Now, I'm not even close to becoming, and I never will
become a professional trap shooter or a professional sporting
clay shooter, but it really follows through the same thing in
winemaking, which is that you can practice the same thing
over and over again, but what if the target presentation
(i.e. the marketplace), what if the market presentation
changes and somebody else catches up with you? You have to
react to it. You can't just say, "No, I'm just going to keep
shooting in the same position and keep following through."
Well, the target's in a different spot, you're not going to
break it any more. If you keep making the wine the same way,
day in and day out, and somebody else has changed their style
to meet or eclipse yours such as by: filtration versus
nonfiltration, malolactic versus nonmalolactic fermentation,
barrel fermentation versus nonbarrel fermentation or partial
barrel fermentation, sur lees aging of the new wines on the
yeast lees, on the gross lees or on the semi-gross lees, then
you must react if you wish to stay competitive. I mean, all
these factors play a part in your development.
So as people's tastes evolve, everybody's trying to
decide what is the best way to make Chardonnay, what is the
best way to make Cabernet Sauvignon, what is the best way to
make Merlot? I don't know that you can answer that question.
Again, it's like I've got to come back to something I enjoy
and can easily relate to. What's the best way to shoot
clays? Well, the best way to do it is what works for you,
and what brings home the bacon, getting in competition or in
this case, what brings home the bacon as far as the market of
the product is concerned, and who in fact buys your product,
and they continue to vote with their dollars.
Changes in Ownership
Hicke: Well, let me ask about ownership, small wineries and large
corporate ownership. You told me quite a bit about that.
Maybe you could just tell me in general what's happened in
R. Arrowood: Well, of course, with the pending sale of Chateau St. Jean to
Mike Moone's group called Silverado Partners--! 'm sure you've
heard about that, obviously, and although it's not a done
deal yet, when it closes it may well be the best thing that's
happened to the Chateau in many, many years. Mike Moone is a
prince of a guy. He's a grand schemer, he knows what's going
on in the business. If anybody can turn that thing around
and bring it back into the forefront and the spotlight that I
think Chateau St. Jean still richly deserves, if anybody can
do it, he can. So that example, I think, is going to be very
But you have to have a very forward-thinking and very
progressive-thinking person at the helm on that. There are
not too many Mike Moones out there, in my opinion. Jess
Jackson: damned good, damned good at what he does. He's
also a forward-thinker and can develop a--I think quality is
still his number one concern. I mean, quantity certainly is
important, you've got to pay the bills and things, and you
develop and get on that big marketing merry-go-round, but he
seems to understand. He hires damned good people to run his
operations for him. As far as the winemaking staff of the
production team is concerned, they're tops. That's where it
really has to start.
Marketing and sales: I don't mean to imply and I'm not
implying that that's a simple situation. But unfortunately,
it's a bit like dishwashing. If the chef doesn't prepare the
meal, then you don't have any dishes to wash. But on the
other side of the coin, with marketing and sales, if the chef
prepares the meal, somebody still has to deliver it to the
customers waiting to eat! So you have to be very creative.
A guy like- -again I come back to this--a guy like Mike Moone
and his people have the ability, not only to understand the
production side and the quality with that side, but they also
have an ability to be able to deliver the goods once they've
produced it! They know how to market it and sell it
properly. And that's really important. It's great to get
the write-ups, and that's very important. If you don't have
the press behind you, God bless you, but you're not going to
do very well, no matter how good you think your wines are.
If you can't get third-party endorsement, or you don't get
third-party endorsement, you're probably not going to be
successful in growing your brand.
I would be very surprised, when that deal with Chateau
St. Jean goes through, if that particular corporate venture
didn't blossom, reblossom again, have a complete renaissance
of the Chateau, just like Mike did with Ed Sbragia at
Hicke: It sounds as if you're saying that the corporate ownership is
not as important as who is the owner.
R. Arrowood: That's exactly right. And I don't want-- [laughs] I want to
be careful here, not that I'm a careful person, but I don't
want to name names of some of the bigger companies, but if
you look at some of the larger liquor houses that own
wineries and the things that they've done, they're
insensitive to two things: growing grapes and production.
It's a combination. Grape growing is wine growing, so I'm
going to call those the same; production is producing
They've been insensitive to presenting the product to
the public with the direction towards quality versus the
quantity aspect, and so if you say, "Well, we're going to
talk quality, but really what we're trying to say is we want
to get a lot of case goods out there"--well, that comes right
around and impinges on production again. The more you push
on thatI mean, it's a real vicious circle that just, as it
goes around, it gets worse, and it gets worse, and it gets
worse, again as evidenced by--I don't want to say that there
is a failing in Chateau St. Jean, but the perception, and in
marketing, perception is reality, so the perception was that
things changed. Dick Arrowood didn'tJust because I left
didn't make Chateau St. Jean change. There were still many
wines that I produced there that had yet to have been
released, and did well, but after that, Don Von Staaveren
made his own wines; he's done a fantastic jobwith Merlot,
with Cabernet Sauvignon, with Robert Young Chardonnay,
continually doing that job well.
I think what passed Chateau St. Jean by was perception.
You can't produce hundreds of thousands of cases of
Chardonnay and expect to have a perception that you're only
producing 4,000 or 5,000 cases of Chardonnay. Now, they may
only make A, 000 or 5,000 cases of Robert Young Chardonnay, or
maybe 10,000, I don't know, but when I left, it was 4,000 or
5,000 cases. That's not very much Chardonnay, so there was a
microwinery within a winery. And the perception of
exclusivity was alive and well.
But when you produce 150,000 cases of, let's say, XYZ
Sonoma County appellation Chardonnay, as you continue to push
more of that out and you spend less time on it, unless you
have a staff that's babysitting that all the time, it's tough
to be able to control it. Now, I don't know; again, I don't
have any inside track about what Mike Moone's going to do in
his group. However, I have a general suspicion that they may
rethink this big productivity thing just like they did with
Beringer: spin that off to a different label, or whatever.
Think back twenty-five, thirty years ago, Beringer lost
a tremendous amount of its original luster. Now, I never
thought it would ever come back. Well, I was dead wrong on
that. I mean, Beringer came back not only well but with a
major vengeance in the quality arena, and is now one of the
most key large corporate players. The perception of Beringer
out there, however they've managed to do it, is that it's not
a very large operation, number one, but number two, it's an
extremely high quality operation. That's very true, it's
extremely high quality. How small it is is an interesting
question, but the fact of the matter is that the average
consumer doesn't think that Beringer relates to a large
winery as far as its size. It still has a perception of a
very small operation, but an extremely high quality operation
with an extremely high quality perception.
That didn't just happen by somebody just saying, "Oh, my
goodness, today let's have Beringer be the good one." It
didn't work that way. The winery worked it through and made
it happen, brought the players in that were necessary, got
the vineyards in the fruit source. The people that played a
role in that all have themselves to thank and themselves to
feel proud of, because they did it.
I think the same thing could happen with Chateau St.
Jean, and I think the same thing will happen as many of the
smaller wineries may be acquired by some of these types of
organizations that come through. Sometimes it's a good
marriage. Sometimes it's not.
If you want to sell your operation because you're tired
of the business, and there are times when everybody gets
tired of the business, but fortunately, those times are much
rarer than the times that you're happy with the business,
there's always thatas I said before, the rare cat breed
like a Michael Moone out there. There are not many of them.
I wish there were more, but there are not too many of them
that have that ability to turn things to gold; not everybody
has that Midas touch.
Unfortunately, some of them have the negative touch, the
proverbial "brown thumb": they touch it and it starts to
wilt. And that's unfortunate. But that comes really through
just ignorance of the business, and not knowing when to leave
things alone, and always having to try to say, "Well, I want
to put my particular spin on it. I'm a corporate cat, I have
my office in New York City, and I know how to put my spin on
this, and I know what's better for the North Coast of Sonoma
County than the people living there. I know what's better
for Napa Valley than the people that are living and working
there. I know what's better for Mendocino than the people
that are living and working there."
That's just my opinion as I'm not much of a corporate
person, because I find it's very difficult to relate to
people that you don't respect. But it's easy to relate to
people that you do respect. That doesn't mean I don't
respect people in corporate environment; I do very much. But
they have got to have paid their dues. Unfortunately that's
often not the case.
Hicke: Sounds like something like an absentee landlord problem.
R. Arrowood: Sure, absolutely. You can't blame the people that are
running the business for having a problem with it, if you
don't give them the direction that's needed. And secondly,
if you yourself lack insight into the business to give them
the proper direction. But again, there are some fine
examples, and although I think I could be wrong on this, I
feel quite secure that if I was a betting man in this case, I
would certainly put my money on Mr. Moone any day. I think
he'll turn the perception of the brand around, and it's going
to be a very positive thing to the majority of the people
that are there. I hope it works, because I'm very excited
for them; I hope it works out beautifully.
Wine Auctions and Other Activities
Okay, just speaking in general terms about the industry now,
what do you think the effect of auctions and things like that
have on the wine business?
Oh, you know, personally, I have a real problem with the
Sonoma County auction, and it's nothing really, just a
personal thing. I think it's a Napa Valley wannabe, it's
treated that way, and it's unfortunate. There are going to
be some people who will agree and some who will disagree with
me, I think, vehemently, and I respect their opinion, people
like Saralee Kunde; I think she's, of course, a big auction
fan; she's always there at the auction every year, and she's
a major supporter of the auction.
The Sonoma Valley auction: talking about regional
auctions, I find this auction to be a fascinating place to go
to see people you want to talk to, but not so necessarily
fascinating places if you're really trying to buy wine. If
you want to support some good causes, no problem. Makes
sense. That's certainly one way of doing it.
Do they affect the price of the wine?
I think it probably does in Napa, it affects the perception,
and again, the fact of the perception being probably reality,
sure it does. Helping Sonoma County wines gain notoriety? I
don't think so. But I might be wrong. I don't think it has
the same cachet that Napa Valley's developed for itself. We
can and should do something different. Why go through and
copy somebody else's success? It's okay to look at
somebody's style. It's all right to take a look at that and
see if it works for you, but to try to go out and attempt to
duplicate that, but do it cheaper and at the same time make
it better? I just don't know.
Again, I enjoy the Sonoma Valley auction, because the
Sonoma Valley pokes fun at the perceived Napa Valley
stuffiness. But to give you an idea, last year, Robert
Mondavi and Margrit Biever came over, which was very nice of
them. I don't know how it was arranged, I think that some of
the people in Sonoma Valley or Bob Henry, I think, at Sonoma
Mission Inn may have gotten him over here. I don't know how
that was done, but they came over, and it was a great deal.
I mean, all of a sudden people realized, There's the
Mondavis. He was Just supporting the fact that it's a wine
auction, and wines are not necessarily site-specific as far
as auctions are concerned, but it's a very beneficial thing
for everybody, it's a good cause, and it brings people more
into the philosophical and educational experience of wine
consumption and wine- -the social, good life, and all the
things that they talk about. I thought that was very
fascinating, because here's a guy that's got a very big
You were just saying that you went to Japan-
Yes. As a matter of fact, I went to Japan with Robert and
Margrit back in 1987, I think it was. The guy's got more
energy than I'll ever have. Just at his age now, he just
seems like he's got filament in his light bulb, that just
continues to glow ever more brightly. I don't necessarily
envy it; I'm just awed by it. A super winemaker of the first
I think Sonoma Valley always tried to poke fun at the
stuffiness of the Napa Valley auction, when in fact they're
just two different places. Sonoma Valley is laid back, we
still have fun, the funds are going to some great causes, and
all that's important, and we all have a good time, but we
don't have any black tie events or anything like that. So
our local color always has fun drawing that out and joking
In general, we support our local auction in Sonoma
Valley because it's a little less pretentious, that's all.
But I don't think we should try to tie ourselves into the--I
don't want to call it plagiarism, but just saying hey, we're
as good as Napa also. We're just different. It's important.
Okay, well, let me ask you a little bit about your
professional activities and some of the associations you
belong to. I know you belong to a variety of them, but let's
start with Sonoma County Wineries Association.
Well, of late, I've kind of backed out of there almost
completely, just because I'm not real pleased with some of
the direction I saw it going. I was on the board of
directors there for a short period of time, a couple of
years, and I've done that off and on, but it's like anything
else: I guess you get out what you put in, and I'd be the
first one to admit that during those times, I had a lot of
things happening, not the least of which was unfriendly
banks, and you've got to tend to the business at home.
So I didn't have the time to go ahead. The winery
wasn't owned by a big company, so I couldn't get away and
spend time at the organization which I should have. I helped
wherever I could, I helped develop their small, demonstration
winemaking center. I decided to leave because I had some
difference of opinion in the management style.
That's neither here nor there. Alis spends a little
time there. I know she has some input; she does a lot of the
Sonoma County tours. In any event, Alis has spent a lot of
the time, and [Edward J.] Ned Carton, our sales manager,
spent a lot of time on the road with the Sonoma County's
tour, and I think that's had some positive effects. I think
it's now kind of worn itself out somewhat. But again, this
is just my opinion, just as the other offerings are my
opinion. I mean, this whole thing is my opinion, obviously.
That's what we're here for.
As I've gotten older, I have less interest in doing a lot of
the internal organization work, because I find that again, it
takes an inordinate amount of time, and I have other uses for
my spare time, which might be called selfish, but at fifty
years old, I want to take more time. This is no dress
rehearsal; I'd like to enjoy life and partake in some of the
fruits of the labor that I've given, so I'm going to spend
the majority of my time here. I'll put my time in on the
foundation board of directors of Santa Rosa Junior College,
and I'll spend as much time as I possibly can contributing to
what they're doing there. It's, I think, a darn good school.
And as much as I can contribute to that, I try, both monetary
and on a time basis. Eventually I'd like to set up a trust
for students as sort of a system that will allow the
students, if they're interested in agriculture, to be able to
get some additional funds to help them out- -a stipend,
whatever you want to call it, and we'll eventually do that, I
think, as the time develops. We're getting closer to setting
up some sort of a small foundation for Arrowood Winery; I'd
like to do that.
But I'm spending less time in the other professional
organizations just because they bore me in some respects, I
guess is what I'm trying to say.
R . Arrowood :
Well, sometimes it's not a challenge any more, after you've
done it for a while.
Yes, and maybe I just need to take a fresh outlook, but God
knows, there are people like the Patrick Campbells of the
world, and the Tom Hobarts of the world that do work very,
very hard at putting things together. I may not always agree
with what they're doing, but that's not the point. They are
selfless individuals. I guess I could call myself a selfish
individual in some ways, but 1 don't feel too bad about it.
I'm saying that because it doesn't really bother me that
much. I'm doing what I want to do, and hence, Alis does a
lot of those other things, which you can talk to her about
it. She contributes, I think, more today to those
organizations than I do.
You know, obviously, if I can help in some area that I
feel comfortable with, I'll do that, because of some of my
contacts and things. If I need to bring an individual in
that's a specific outside resource, I have some friends at
NASA, and I know an astronaut there, and so we asked her to
help dedicate the new Tracking Station at Santa Rosa Junior
College. She happens to be a real wine nut, so she has
become a close friend, and so if we have a dedication for the
NASA SAREX tracking station at the junior college, I managed
to get her to come out, and that's the kind of thing that I'm
happy to do if I can.
I don't like to prey upon friendships on that basis, but
if somebody says, "Hey, I wouldn't mind doing that," or "It
would be fun to do it," fine, then we'll do those kind of
things. And that's usually my contribution.
Well, I have a whole list of things you've belonged to at one
time. Do you want to run down it?
Yes, I can take a quick look here. Again, most of these are
pretty much because of the politics involved; I'll support
some of the ideas if they fit the business of winegrowing and
it makes sense, but there's a balance, because there's a
tremendous amount of political infighting between Wine
Institute and Family Winemakers and the American Vineyard
As you said, there's politics.
Really, I just, I don't enjoy it, and I find it to be
offensive, and so I just try to stay away from it. There's
no such thing as a nonpolitical person, because your politics
are such that you support whoever you can. You never realize
this until you start to have some problems and you need those
politicians for friends, but if the politicians weren't
involved in the first place way back when, you probably
wouldn't have the problems you have. So it's sort of a self-
But as I said, I'm- not much of a diplomat, but I try to
work within the bounds that I think are reasonable. I'm not
a desperate, and I don't pronounce--! pronounce judgments
like any other human being on others, I suppose, but I have
no right to pronounce judgments on anybody else, and so I'm
just as bad, I guess, as the next person, the way things are
done. I don't feel, however, that I am a dishonest person in
any way, shape, or form, other than sometimes I won't exactly
say my feelings because I don't want to hurt somebody else's
feelings, but I try to be as frank as I can.
And that's what's really important to me; I don't care
whether other people like my attitude or feel I'm arrogant.
I don't think I'm arrogant, but if they feel I'm arrogant,
that ' s the way it is . I do feel it ' s important to me to know
that they, at least, respect my abilities as a winemaker.
That's important to me. And I also expect them to respect my
honesty as an individual. I'm a person, that if I say that's
where it is, I'll make sure it happens. I'll do the best I
can to make sure it happens. If it doesn't happen, it's
because it's beyond my control, not because I didn't try.
Those are the important things in my life, I guess, on that
Thoughts on the Future
Okay. Well, let me just ask you what you see for the future
Well, yes. The future for me, the excitement is going to
come by tinkering with some of the varietals, some of the
different varieties of grapes that are being grown for us,
let's say at Saralee's Vineyards and other spots, and having
a chance to paint on some new canvas, that's all. That's the
biggest excitement that I can see coming from the business
from our side. We've thought about the idea of taking the
second label larger and doing this and doing that, as far as
making more quantity of it, but every time we come back to
it, the old answer is, how much harder do we really want to
work? You have to always worry about chasing quality versus
what we're doing right now, which is not chasing quality, but
just embellishing the quality that we have to work with, and
not worrying about whether or where we're going to get bulk
wine or whatever.
So that we've kind of talked about, but we've sort of
discarded it at this particular point, and I think our
biggest excitement is going to come here just from focusing
on making the wines better, focusing on making them
different, not different for different's sake but different
in a better way, if it's possible. And trying to make a
bottle of wine that's worth the value that we're asking
somebody to pay for it. If that happens, then I think we've
I want to have more free time so that I can spend time
hunting pheasant and shooting sporting clays. That's really
what I enjoy very, very much, and occasional trips to Alaska
so I can do some fly fishing. Those are the things that
fascinate me. The free time aspect of it is very important
to me, so to make it bigger, it doesn't necessarily fit into
that realm. I would rather just continue to focus on
quality, complete quality, because I know Alis doesn't want
to work harder and harder. She spends a lot of time running
around the country, and although she's a gypsy at heart,
because of her flight attendant time at Air Canada, I
suppose; God knows why, but she doesn't mind. But I can tell
when I talk to her sometimes, the travel is kind of tiring
her out too.
You know--I should be careful how I say thisbut it
used to be, I would arrange my travel trips around what
markets have to be developed. Now I find out which markets
have the best sporting clay place where I can go shoot, so I
can bring my shotgun, check it with the airline and bring it
with me, sort of like golf clubs, so I can play. I'll go out
and promote the marketplace, but now when Ned says, "Yeah, I
need you in New York," I'll say, "Well, what's the nearest
sporting clay place that I can shoot?" Then we can talk
about a wine trip!
That makes a lot of sense to me.
So that's sort of really what I'm trying to do, and that's
what I've found. That's today. Who knows what it will be
ten years from now? I don't want to make it sound like I'm
not spending the time at the wheel here. I still am, and I
still enjoy it very much, and there are parts of the business
that are still fun and very rewarding. When it becomes "not
fun," we'll sell the winery, but we seriously don't have any
So it's not a matter of having the extra money, it's
just the challenges that are coming down the road. We're
developing a new sales room, visitors center, which will be
built this year. We've" purchased the property next door to
add a few more acres of vineyard.
A separate building?
Yes, actually, it will be kind of out in this direction.
I've got the plans here, I don't know if you want to see
that, but as we go along, I'll be happy if you want a copy of
them, we can get it reduced down to size so you can see that
we have plans . It will be very much in the same
architectural style already here. It's something we need.
We need a VIP place, a. place where we can have a kitchen so
if we want to take care of people for lunch or dinners, we
can do that, and most importantly, have a central wine
library, which we currently do not have. We have it spread
all over the place right now. So we're going to build in a
couple-of-thousand-square-foot wine library and put in
storage for those wines, because I'd really like to be able
to do that, and sort of pass it on. They always say don't
leave your kids your wine cellar; leave them your money, but
don't ever leave them your wine. I'd still like to leave
them some great wines however.
[laughs] Well, I'd certainly like to thank you very much for
the time that you've spent on this project.
R. Arrowood: Carole, it's been my pleasure.
VII INTERVIEW WITH ALIS ARROWOOD:
Getting Arrowood Winery Started: Cellar Work
Your husband already told me about your background and
something about how he met you. So I think I'd just like to
start out with what you do here at the winery,
at the beginning with what you started doing.
All right. At the very beginning, I worked with the county
on permits and things like that, before the winery was even
built. Once the winery was built, I was slave labor in the
Yes. For the first three years, Richard was working full-
time at Chateau St. Jean, and he would work evenings and
weekends here. But we were in full operation. Our first
harvest was the harvest of '87. Even before we had the right
to occupy the entire building, we were allowed to occupy the
cellars and one bathroom downstairs. So we harvested the
crush of '87, and there were three of us. The assistant
winemaker who is no longer in the wine business. And then
Everisto, who was vineyardist and cellarman.
What's his last name?
Everisto Chavez. And then myself. One of the reasons it was
important to Richard that the winery be located within five
or six minutes of Chateau St. Jean was so that when a load
[of grapes] came in, it would be weighed at Chateau St. Jean,
because we don't have a scale. So they would weigh it at
Chateau St. Jean, and while they were weighing it, Richard
would jump in his truck and come down here, and tell us the
load was coming, he would tell us what tanks he wanted it to
go in, he would tell us what valves to open and close and the
whole thing. The load would come in, he would stay here,
because Richard examines every single load that comes through
here. And he was here pretty much to see if the load was
what he expected it to be, deciding what he wanted to do with
it, and, I don't know if he explained this, but he tastes
everything, and manipulates the fruit to see what condition
Tasting the grapes?
Yes. By tasting he can better evaluate the grapes and then
fine tune his plans for their vinification. Just really
hands-on and very close to it. So at that time, I was doing
When you say doing sugar, you were testing the Brix?
Yes. As the grapes were crushed, 1 would take samples of the
juice at random times, just to see what the average worked
out to be as far as sugar and acidity and things like that.
Does it vary much?
No, not usually, but it may vary from one bin to another, by
maybe one degree, and it's the overall average. Usually it's
very close to what the growers say. He's been working with
our growers for a very long time, and they know exactly what
he's looking for. So it's probably more important with new
growers, because it takes a while for everybody to be on the
As soon as the load was crushed, he would jump in his
truck and go back to Chateau St. Jean. He had told us what
he wanted us to do, what to inoculate, and how to do this and
how to do that. Of course, Alan Keezer, the assistant
winemaker, understood what we were supposed to do, so it's
not as though we were blind when Richard wasn't there.
We would work the full day and do what we were supposed
to do, then Richard would come back at the end of the day and
spend another hour or two going over what we'd done, making
sure everything was okay.
What happened to the juice?
To the juice?
Yes. Did you have the rest of the facilities to make wine?
Oh, yes. We had the tanks and we had barrels. That was it.
So we could crush into the tanks, in the case of the reds --in
case of everythingand then inoculate and start the
fermentation, and then we'd barrel down in the case of the
whites for the barrel fermentation, and the fermentation of
reds would take place in the tanks. So for those first three
years, that was my job plus cleaning barrels, cleaning the
press, doing all of the things that people do during harvest.
And it was wonderful for me. I've always been a bit of
a tomboy, so it satisfied that side of me. I'm a better
number two than I am a number one, so it worked very well,
Richard would tell us how and what to do and then we would do
it. Then when it was time to bottle, I worked on the
bottling line. Because I liked mechanical things, the
labeler became my machine, and I was the one who would take
it apart if it was not functioning properly, and would clean
it at night and put it back together again. So it was fun,
it was terrific.
Those were the first three years. It was really hands-
on working in the cellars. For the first year and a half, I
worked full-time in the cellars, and after that, I worked
part-time in the cellars and part-time in sales, because by
the spring of '88, we had wine to sell. But we didn't have
very much. My responsibility and the agreement between
Richard and me had always been 50-50. We would invest 50-50,
we worked the load 50-50. He makes it, I sell it.
How did you go about selling your first bottling?
The first bottling was really sold through Chateau St. Jean,
and at that time, they were acting as our broker. By then,
Chateau St. Jean had been purchased by Suntory International,
and they were representing Arrowood, because they already had
a channel in distribution for Chateau St. Jean, and all of
the buyers knew who Dick Arrowood was. It made more sense to
go through that channel. So my job really was to work with
the salespeople at Chateau St. Jean and go door-to-door with
them, work their routes, and call on accounts.
A . Arrowood :
You just went along with them to talk to the distributors or
In California, it was direct sales, so we would go to the
restaurants and the retailers, taste with them and try to
convince them that they wanted Arrowood on their wine list.
How did you persuade them?
Back then, I took advantage of Richard's reputation at
Chateau St. Jean. I took advantage of their knowledge of the
quality of his product, and also offered them an opportunity
to taste the wine. I really believe that no matter how much
you praise and talk about the wine, what it tastes like is
really the final point, and the wines were beautifully made,
so there was really no objection. And the objection may have
been, well, they're a little high priced and not a lot of
people know what the Arrowood label is.
A. Arrowood i
That was going to be my next question:
how did you determine
The pricing was determined on many things. One of them was
based on where we got our fruit, what it cost us to get the
fruit, based on Richard's reputation, and also at that time
you had to take the overhead into consideration. But mainly,
it was the quality and what it took to produce that quality.
All the steps that Richard went through to produce this wine
put it in a top quality level, and we felt that our
competitive universe was somewhere around $16, $17 a bottle
for the Chardonnay, and around $20 for Cabernet Sauvignon.
We believed at that time, and so did the wine trade,
that really the wines were underpriced for the quality we
offered. We wanted to make sure that we would exceed
people's expectation. That's something that is stimulating
to Richard, and it is something that he strives for. He not
only wants to be in the upper echelons of quality, but he
likes to exceed people's expectations.
I'm sure that's a big part of your sales.
I believe it, very strongly. These wines are definitely a
luxury, they are wines for a special occasion, unless you're
a wine collector or somebody who's made wine a hobby. There
would really be no reason for you to buy Arrowood, unless
somebody said, "Try this, it's really good." It's priced
above $30 in the case of Cabernet Sauvignon, and if you're in
that price category, it's very, very important that, year
after year after year, the quality be consistent and
definitely more often than not exceeds the expectation.
Well, the quality consistency is one thing, but that's not
the same as saying that the flavor is consistent year after
No, you're right, it's very different. This would have been
a good question for Richard to answer, but I'll answer it the
way I normally would when I'm on the road, with the
information that I have. My understanding is that there is
and even I with an average palate recognize itthere's a
definite flavor profile in the Arrowood wines, and that
flavor profile comes from the grapes you get, and their
profile comes from the soil they're grown in, the climate
they're grown in, the clone that they're grown from. And so
because Richard works with thirteen to fifteen different
vineyard lots, and he keeps each one of thosehas he
explained this to you, how he makes his wine?
Okay. So because there are all these different vineyard lots
and he keeps everything separate, he goes through and he
tastes to see how everything is developing, and will towards
the end make the final blend. When he first went out to
these vineyards and signed long-term contracts, he selected
these vineyards because they had a particular flavor
characteristic that he really liked and that would contribute
to the final blend.
So although the flavor may vary slightly based on the
quality of the vintage, the similarities remain consistent
from year to year. One vintage just may have been a better
quality than other years. But, in a blind tasting, you would
probably say, "I think this is an Arrowood Cabernet
So there's a certain amount of flavor consistency as
Right. For instance, some Cabernet Sauvignons have a bell
pepper character every year, or have a minty characteristic
to them, and you would say, "Oh, this is a very eucalyptus or
a very minty Cabernet Sauvignon; I think it belongs to such-
and-such and such-and-such a winery." And you would say,
"This has that black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee kind of
character. This must be Arrowood."
Growth of Sales and Distribution
Hicke: Okay. Well, we started to talk about how you began the
distribution. Can you tell me how that evolved?
A. Arrowood: Oh, yes. [laughter] It changed. It started out with
Chateau St. Jean, and working side by side with the
salespeople from Chateau St. Jean. When Chateau St. Jean
moved their distribution from the winery to a distributor,
Southern Wine and Spirits, we were approached by Southern
Wine and Spirits, and I'm not real sure why. I sometimes get
the feeling that Southern Wine and Spirits took Arrowood as
one of their brands because they were afraid if they didn't
take Arrowood, they wouldn't get Chateau St. Jean. I'm not
sure what the story is there.
And the reason I question it is based on how they then
proceeded to sell it. What Southern Wine and Spirits did is
they went ahead and purchased their entire A, 000 case
allocation in one purchase, just boom, which gave us a
tremendous cash flow. And at that time, they had 100
salespeople on the street, upwards of 100 people selling the
wines. And we thought, This is fantastic. We're in heaven.
We have the money, we have the sales force, we're all set.
What we didn't realize at the time was that there are a
lot of wines in Southern Wine and Spirits 's book, and there
are a lot of pressures to sell much more "important" brands,
and by important I mean larger volume, therefore more income
for the distributor. Arrowood was just a small thing. And
they proceeded to try to sell it, but they didn't. They were
very unsuccessful at selling the wines, to the point where
about a year and a half later, I had to walk in with
management and say, "I'm very sorry, but we can't afford to
do business with you any more, because at this rate, we won't
be able to release any new vintage until 1995," and this was
So it was very difficult, and we had an agreement at
that time that said we would buy back whatever wines that
they had. We were afraid that if a distributor ever stopped
selling our wines, they could discount it and sabotage the
label, so Richard and I in our contract had said, "And we
want first opportunity to buy the wine back from you." So we
bought back 1,000 cases of wine at $134.50 a case.
We went from having a fabulous cash flow to not
performing the way we thought we would. And at that time-
did Richard explain to you about the banks and everything?
Oh, yes, he told me about the banks.
Okay. Well, that was the beginning of a terrible time,
because then the bank looked at our performance and said,
"You didn't do what you said you'd do, therefore, we'd rather
you find a different bank." And we knew that it was because
of this isolated incident, and there was no way that we could
convince them that it wasn't going to happen again. We've
never again put so many eggs in one basket. We learned it
early on, and we learned it well. But boy, that was a
You learned it the hard way, though.
So from Southern Wine and Spirits, we went to a broker,
California Wine Marketing, which is currently our broker.
They have twenty salespeople on the street.
Can you explain the difference between a distributor and a
Oh, yes, I'd be happy to. A distributor would be a large
organization that has its own sales force, and the
distributor purchases the wine from the winery, paying for
it, and then selling it to the retailer and to the
restaurateur. A broker has a smaller sales force, and never
takes possession of the wine. They take a commission on
whatever is sold. So their salespeople will also go out, get
the order for the wine, but will place that order with the
wineries. We make arrangements to ship, and we make
arrangements to collect on the account, as opposed to having
a distributor just give us one big fat check and not worrying
about it --thinking that you don't have to worry about it.
We've realized that you do.
Yes. So you've switched to a--
A broker, California Wine Marketing.
And how did that go?
We also have another broker called Vino Yes. Vino Yes is
north of Marin County, and California Wine Marketing is in
the rest of California.
And the way it works is pretty much back to the way it
was when we were selling through Chateau St. Jean. We now go
out and work side by side with the salespeople. This is a
good team; they do a good job. It's not necessary for me or
for Ned [Carton], our national sales manager, to go out and
work with them on a weekly basis. And so they go out every
day, and they knock on doors, and they sell Arrowood along
with other wines.
How do they decide which wine to sell where and when?
Oh-- [laughter] we're still trying to figure that one out.
They receive guidelines from the wineries. For instance,
Arrowood Winery believes that it's important to have at least
50 percent of our wines in restaurants and the other 50
percent in retail stores. Ideally, it would be 60 percent in
restaurants, 40 percent in retail stores. So what we do is
we tell them that we want distribution of restaurants, but
the price point of a wine automatically determines where they
can and can't sell it. It doesn't make sense for them to
sell a $24, $25 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in a 7-11
[store]. But ideally, if our wines can be served at the Ritz
Carlton, or if they can be served at Mixx in Santa Rosa,
where somebody would spend that kind of money for a bottle of
wine, that's where we want to be.
Ideally, you want your wines to be a source of income
for the customer, meaning the restaurant or the retailer. If
your wine, no matter how delicious it is, sits on the shelf
or sits in the back room, that's not good, because for month
after month, they go in there and look at that space which is
filled by your wine, not generating any income, and it's
frustrating. So, what you want to do is try to place your
wines somewhere where there will be movement and revenue
In the Marketplace; Life on the Run
What you do in order to stimulate that wine movement is try
to have a wine tasting with the waiters and waitresses of a
particular restaurant, so that if a customer comes in and
says, "What would you recommend in the way of a Cabernet
Sauvignon?", they want to say, "Arrowood. I know the people
there, I've tried the wines, they're delicious, you'll be
very happy. If you want to pamper yourself, this is the
wine . "
And that's what my job is. My job is to go out around
the country and to meet with the wait staff and say, "Okay,
taste this wine. This is what it tastes like." What you
want to do is tell them what are the positive aspects and the
benefits of having this wine on their wine list.
How much of the time are you on the road, then?
Less now. I'm on the road probably twenty weeks out of the
That's a lot.
It is a lot. And my goal is to get it down to fifteen weeks
out of the year. But as you can see [pointing to wall], my
calendar is just full; I'm the one in red on the calendar.
But I like it. I don't like being gone for two weeks, and I
don't like being gone twenty- six weeks out of the year the
way it used to be. That's too much. But if you take a look
at my office, you can see I'm useless in an office
environment. I work hard, but I'm not half as productive
here as I am when I'm out on the street selling wine. That's
really what I'm good at. So it's important for me to be able
to get out there, and I'm happy when I'm selling wine.
Am I happy being away from home and staying in a hotel?
Not really. But it's good for me to be gone once in a while,
because as the husband and wife teamwe work together, we
play together, we live together, and every now and then we
forget how brilliant the other is; so it's good to be gone
for a week and to have your memory refreshed. It works out
well for us.
Do you find it difficult to leave the business here at the
winery when you go home?
In the evening, for instance?
Yes, but we've been working on that for a long time. When
Richard and I first met, I was in hospitality and sales for
A. Arrowood :
another winery, and he was in production for Chateau St.
Jean. And you have to realize that sales and production
rarely agree on how things should be done.
Yes, I can see how difficult that is.
So early on in our relationship, we recognized the
differences in our personalities which made us attractive to
each other, but we also discovered that if we spoke about our
jobs in depth, we would have problems. So we started early
on in our relationship, before we even started working
together, not making that a focus and not making home the
place where you get rid of whatever is bothering you at work.
And it ' s worked very well for us .
Back to your life on the road:
typical day or routine?
can you tell me about a
Yes. Usually I fly out on Sundays, because I like to be in
the marketplace when the week starts. And I've learned over
time that it's best for me to fly in so that I am alone in
the evening, have time to unwind, and don't have to worry
about having to get to a meeting. I used to fly in and go to
a meeting right away, and that was too stressful. So I come
in the day before.
I start my day early, usually nine o'clock on the East
Coast, and nine o'clock on the East Coast is really six
o'clock for me. So I have a little bit of trouble with the
time change, but if I want to be productive, that's when I
start. And usually, it's sales calls in the mornings to
either restaurants or retailers, with the sales force of the
distributor in that particular area.
For instance, I just got back from Texas. So I arrived
in Dallas Sunday night. Monday morning, I started working
with a sales manager, because managers don't have a set
route, whereas salespeople do. And salespeople don't sell
only Arrowood; they have several wines that they sell, so not
all of their accounts would be Arrowood accounts. And their
set route for Monday might be to call on one place that would
carry Arrowood and six places that would never have anything
to do with Arrowood.
So by working with the sales manager, I can do what's
called high- spotting. I would go to four or five different
salespeople's accounts that would be primary Arrowood
accounts. My day would begin early in the morning, and I
would call on accounts, usually retailers, because restaurant
people aren't there until, say, about eleven o'clock.
Then a few restaurants, then lunch with either a
prospective account or a current account to thank them, and
usually it would be at a restaurant that currently carries
Arrowood, so that I could offer them the kind of support that
they are for Arrowood b"y carrying our wines on the wine list.
And if it's the perfect day, then I have one or two pre-
shift seminars or staff tastings--
A. Arrowood: Pre-shift seminars: if you are in a restaurant somewhere
between four-thirty and five-thirty, the wait staff will meet
with the chef, and the chef will tell them, "These are the
specials for today, this is what we're doing, these are the
special groups that we. have in," and they would give me ten
minutes where I could say, "And this is one of the wines you
carry on your wine list, and this is what it tastes like."
Some restaurants will allow the staff to taste, some will
not. Usually they taste. And then I will give them the high
spots of the wine, and give them a few buzz words that will
make them comfortable whether they know about wine or not,
make it easier for them to suggest Arrowood when a customer
says, "What would you suggest?"
And so that's perfect for me, because now I have eight
people on the floor saying, "Arrowood, Arrowood, Arrowood,"
as opposed to nobody. And if I'm lucky, I have two of those
in a day, and that, to me, is a successful trip.
Then usually in the evening, around seven o'clock there
will be a vintner dinner, and that would be a dinner where
the wines are paired up with the dishes of a particular
restaurant or club, and I am the entertainment for the
evening. People pay to have a nice dinner and a nice wine,
and for me to say some things about wine. I prefer to make
it fun and interesting rather than too technical and putting
them to sleep.
I'm back in my hotel room by eleven, eleven-thirty, and
it starts all over again the next day.
Hicke: And the next day do you go someplace else, or do you have
I try to spend two days in a particular city. In this case,
I was Monday and Tuesday in Dallas, and Wednesday and
Thursday in Houston. And on the days that I travel, I'm
usually up by six, on the plane by eight, and in the new city
by nine-thirty, ten o'clock, ready to start all over. On
this trip, I was in Texas for four days and I had three
vintner dinners and four days in the marketplace. It's
tiring and exciting at .the same time.
So you're really "on" all day.
That is tiring.
Yes. And the part that I find difficult is, I get such an
adrenalin rush when I do these dinners, because although I
like to do them, it's always a little intimidating to speak
in public, and to try to remember, Did I say this already, or
was it last night that- I said that? So I find it a little
stressful. By the time I get back to my hotel at eleven
o'clock, I can't go to sleep because I'm so wound up. And
I'm usually starving because I didn't eat because I was busy
talking the whole time.
Do you keep a bag permanently packed?
I have a bag that is halfway permanently packed, yes.
Expanding the Market
Let me ask you now about how the production and sales and
marketing expanded, and how you got it to expand. You
started out with northern and southern California.
Yes. And also, we were very fortunate, because of Richard's
long association with Chateau St. Jean and because Chateau
St. Jean was well established in fifty states, just about.
When we started the winery, we received phone calls from
distributors, for instance, New York is the perfect example.
We received a phone call saying, "Gee, Dick, this is so-and-
so, and we've carried the St. Jean wines for fifteen years
now. I hope you will allow us to carry your wines."
It was very exciting. The difficult part was with the second
vintage, although the buyers of all those distributorships
were thrilled with the wines and the quality of the wines,
the consumer, who had been reaching for the Chateau St. Jean
label for fifteen, sixteen years, now was faced with a new
label called Arrowood. But they didn't know Dick Arrowood
was the brilliant guy that made these wines. All they knew
was Chateau St. Jean was a wonderful wine, and they would
never be embarrassed if they served it.
So when it was time to reach for the Arrowood bottle,
they'd look at it and think, Well, Arrowood? Never heard of
Unknown. And, $20. So I'm not going to- -who wants to
experiment with a $20 bet? Not me. I'll spend $20 on
something I know, not something I don't know. So by the time
we released our second vintage, the first vintage was still
sitting on the shelves. And you know, the first sale is
always easy to make. There's always a hook, there's always
something you can say to get somebody to buy it. It's the
second bottle--if you sell that second bottle, it's because
you delivered everything you promised with the first one.
But if it's still sitting on the shelf, who wants to buy the
So that's when I really started traveling, and my job
was to go out there and talk to people, and talk to the sales
force, and do public tastings, and really get people to
believe in Arrowood. That took a full year of a lot of work,
and then finally by the time we released our third vintage,
more people recognized it, and the press was writing about
it, things were going better.
It was still an uphill battle, though. Every year,
you'd look at your sales projections, and it says you're
going to sell X number of cases, and you've only sold two-
thirds of that, and the month is almost over, and then you
start calling your distributors saying, "Gee, I notice that
you haven't bought any wine this month, and you bought two
months ago, and according to the way things have been going,
we think maybe it's time for you to order again, you're going
to run out." And sometimes they'd say, "Oh, no, I still have
a lot left."
Or sometimes they would say things like, "Well, we've been
hoarding it because we were under the impression that it was
going to run out." That was one of the biggest problems we
had, was that the sales force who work for all these
distributors were under the impression that Arrowood was such
a small winery, they were afraid to put the wine on the wine
list because they were afraid that in three months, somebody
would say, "By the way, there's no more wine available." And
the worst thing to happen to a salesperson is to spend three
months convincing the buyer in a restaurant that this is a
great thing to do, and then have to come back to him two
months later and say, "I apologize, you have to reprint your
wine list now because this wine is no longer available."
So my job was to get out there and, without convincing
people that it was a mass-produced wine, convince them that
there would be enough wine so that if a salesman stuck his
neck out and said, "Buy it, it's worth it," we could back him
up with enough product and not embarrass them. So the first
few years were trying to find that fine line, and I spent
most of my time saying, "If I have to UPS it to you, I
promise you that you will not run out of this wine if you put
it on your wine list, and I assure you that I am not in this
marketplace making more commitments than we can keep."
And then it was convincing the distributor that he
should maintain enough inventory in his warehouse so that
when the salesman calls up and says, "Is there any Arrowood?"
there would be enough there to make him feel secure. And
that's where our national sales manger, Ned Carton, came in,
whose name I'm sure you've heard more than once. His job was
to call distributors up and say, "You have twelve cases in
your warehouse, and you need to have a minimum of twenty-
eight or fifty-six for your salespeople to feel comfortable,"
and the buyer would say, "But based on our computer, we're
only selling twelve cases a month, therefore I don't need
more than twelve."
You know, it's really sort of a give-and-take, and
that's where personal relationships are important, where you
can speak to the buyer and say, "Look, I know that the
movement is only twelve cases this month, and it was only
twelve cases last month, but that's because your salespeople
don't think that they can sell it because they're afraid
you're going to run out of it, so please trust me on this
one. Please stick your neck out. Buy more than your
computer says you should buy. Because I'll be in the
marketplace next month or next week, and I'll sell it for
you . "
That's what Ned and I were doing for the first three
years: "Okay, if you buy fifty-six cases, I will be there
next week and I will work with your salespeople, and you will
get commitments that would assure that those fifty-six cases
will move through your system, so that you won't look as
though you've bought too much wine."
The other side of that, though, is that after you've promised
them there will be more wine, you have to follow up and
provide more wine.
A. Arrowood: That's right.
And how do you work that out with the production end?
You can't. You have to know what your production is, because
the wine that 1 am promising today, it's what was made three
years ago, or what was harvested three years ago. So I need
to know I have X number of cases. If the number is 7,000
cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, then Ned and I need to sit down
and say, "Okay, if we have 7,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon,
a third of that remains in California for Calif ornians. " New
York represents 15 percent of our sales, New York and New
Jersey, so we ' ll--actually, that's not true. Thirty percent
remains in California; 50 percent goes out of state. So that
is the chunk of the pie that Ned has to work with. New York
and New Jersey get 17 percent of just 50 percent.
And we try to project where we would like these pieces
of the pie to be in five years from now. So if we have
determined, as Ned and I have, that New York and New Jersey
will represent 11 percent of our total sales, for instance,
then whether we make 5,000 cases or 8,000 cases or 20,000
cases, New York and New Jersey will get 11 percent of that
entire production. So we know what we have to offer, and
we've reached the point now where they have, as Ned puts it,
stepped up to the plate. They've made the commitments, but
now the wine is on fire. So the requests for the wine are
exceeding the piece of the pie that we've cut out for them
and projected for them.
So now, we're finding ourselves backpedaling and saying,
"I promised you this much, but you're asking for more. I can
still promise you your 11 percent. I can't promise you 15
percent. What I can promise you is that, if the state of
North Dakota doesn't take what they're supposed to take- -and
I'm not going to call them the way I did five years ago and
remind them that they should be buying; I will hope that they
will forget to buy, and forget to sell Arrowood, so I can
give you their fifteen cases or whatever."
So that's what Ned and I are doing now-- juggling the
states, because we have I think fifty-three distributors.
Some states have more than one, and some of them have
brokers. So the most important thing for us is to focus on
twenty key distributors and to supply these twenty key
distributors. There are the small distributorships that buy
fourteen or twenty-eight cases a year, and sometimes you have
to call them up and remind them, "By the way, you haven't
bought any Arrowood for six months. I think you should buy
What we've decided to do now is, if people don't buy it,
whatever they didn't buy will go to one of those twenty key
distributors. So if you in the state of Louisiana were
allocatedthat's the term that's usedif we allocated 56
cases of Chardonnay to you and 112 cases of Cabernet
Sauvignon, and you only bought half of that, the half that
you did not buy will go to somebody else, and next year, if
our production doesn't increase, your allocation remains now
what you actually did the previous year.
That's the way it should be.
I think it's fair.
So that now you've changed your techniques, but also, that's
an excellent description of how it works. I really
appreciate your going into that.
A. Arrowood: Oh, I'm happy to do it.
Selling Grand Archer
Now let me ask you about selling your second label,
that work? Or is it any different?
The second label was never really part of the plan, and so
when it came time to sell the second label, we didn't have
this great marketing plan in mind. What we did have,
however, were a lot of very good distributors, and it was a
little bit like when we started Arrowood: you pick up the
phone and say, "I have this. Is it something that you can
use in your marketplace? This is the price, this is the
quality. I'll send you a bottle of it, you let me know if
you want to work with it." The quantity was small enough
that we could allow ourselves to do that . And if we wanted
to, we could sell the entire Grand Archer production in a
week by making a dozen phone calls.
But the concern that we had was this: because it's half
the price of the Arrowood, and the Grand Archer label was
released at a time when the Arrowood was still being
established, we did not want to dilute the focus that was
being put on Arrowood. So we kind of didn't talk about it
and we didn't push it; we just sort of said, "This is
something that we have that might be interesting to you, and
we suggest that you sell it perhaps to a retailer that is
doing a lot with Arrowood and maybe would like to have
something special for the holidays or for its customers
that's less expensive and that we don't need to guarantee
continuity on." What we tell people is, "We have X number of
cases this year. It could change next year. It could be
more, it could be less. But we have this number of cases,
the price is fabulous, it will be in and it will be out. You
get first crack at it: tell me how much you want."
Some people say, "I'll take all of it," but we can't do
that, because we're offering it almost as an opportunity to
make money and a thank-you to our good customers. "You've
been a good customer, you get first crack at it. You can
have up to X number of cases." And some of them say, "You
know, I'm really doing well with the Arrowood label. I'm
afraid if I bring this in, my salespeople won't know what to
do with it. I'll have to train them, I'll have to start all
over again." And honestly, neither Ned nor I want to go into
a marketplace and spend four days talking about the Grand
Archer. It's not the focus.
But there are marketplaces, for instance in Canada, in
the province of Ontario, where because of the currency
exchange of the Canadian dollar, at this time a bottle of
Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon sells for $30-some-odd a bottle.
That's expensive. And that's at the retail level. Now, the
owner of a restaurant, the way the system works there, he has
to buy from the province, the provincial government, and he
pays $30 for the bottle of wine. He doesn't get a wholesale
price. So the wine usually ends up being $60 to $80 on the
wine list. That's a lot of money.
Now, there are a lot of private clubs in the province of
Ontario. The Royal Canadian Yacht Club loves to have a
special wine for their customers, and they call it the
Commander's Choice. Well, they can't afford to have a $60
bottle of wine there for their members. However, if they can
get their hands on a quality like the Grand Archer and make
it available as the Commander's Selection, they're very
So every year, I get an order from our broker in Ontario
saying, "I need 224 cases of Chardonnay and 224 cases of
Cabernet Sauvignon for the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and
they will be serving your wine for the entire summer season."
So it is blocked out. They can't take it all in one shot.
So it goes out fifty-six cases at a time, and that's
stretched over a period of almost a year. And for six months
out of the year, Ned is howling at me, saying, "I need that
wine, they want it in Texas. Are you sure they're going to
take it? I could use it in New Jersey." But it's blocked
out for them, because I know that it's a high profile, and
it's recognition for Arrowood. They can't afford to have the
Arrowood label, but the Grand Archer is just fine for them,
and they recognize it as Arrowood. So there are some little
For instance, some restaurants here in San Francisco,
Postrio, which is a high-profile account, may not offer a $25
bottle of wine by the glass, but they'll sell the Grand
Archer. It's a delicious wine, and a lot of restaurants like
to offer some new and unknown and limited wines to their
If they can drink it by the glass, it's essentially an
opportunity for the customer, an opportunity to try something
A. Arrowood: That's right. So that's what we do.
Professional Associations and Activities
Do you have a few more minutes?
Tell me if you get pressed. Dick said that he wasn't doing
much with such things as the Sonoma County Wineries
Association any more, but you are. Can you tell me a little
bit about your associations, not only that one but maybe
whatever else you're with?
A. Arrowood: Okay. For the first five or six years, I was very much
involved with the Sonoma County Wineries Association, and we
did every tour, every activity that involved Sonoma County.
My personal opinion is that the Sonoma County Wineries
Association has lost its focus, and we're not real sure any
more what we're promoting, or how effectively we're promoting
it. It's fine to promote Sonoma County, butand I'm not a
very creative person. I'm a nuts-and-bolts, common-sense
person. But I believe that in the Sonoma County Wineries
Association, we need somebody that's highly, highly creative,
that will come up with these off-the-wall ideas, then half of
us will spend our time saying, "No, that's too crazy, we
shouldn't be doing that," but can come up with the kind of
idea so that when you go into a city and do a tour and
tasting, that there's a reason for people to show up at these
Things have changed, and the Sonoma County Wineries
Association has not. For instance, fifteen years ago, people
couldn't sample all the wines. The retailers and
restaurateurs could not get samples of all the wines they
wanted. So it was very exciting when Sonoma County's tour
would come through and there would be twenty-five, thirty
vintners. People would leave their restaurants and leave
their retail shops and come out and taste these new wines.
Well, nowadays, the competition is so fierce that the
sales force will bring the bottle to the restaurant and to
the retailer and say, "These are the new releases. Do you
like them? Buy some." Why would these people leave their
place of business to come hang out and taste wines they've
already had? They want to taste the bizarre, the new, the
If Arrowood, for instance, is on the road, I could
probably get more attention if I poured Viognier at my table,
and there are times I do it. But we only have 900 cases of
Viognier available for sale. Why would I spend thousands and
thousands of dollars riding around the country to have people
taste Viognier? I'll do it because I want their attention,
and I want to steal the show. If I'm in that group, I want
to steal the show. So you bet I'll bring Viognier. I'll
stick it under the table, and I'll say things like, "This is
Hicke: "For your ears only."
A. Arrowood: That's right. And I know that my table is going to be
mobbed, and I'll bring out thingsand Richard and I get into
these discussions every time. "Why are you pouring this
wine? We don't have any." Well, the reason I'm pouring this
wine is if I draw them to my table with Viognier, I can then
use that lever and say, "Okay, I'll tell you what. I'll let
you taste the Viognier, but you have to taste the Cabernet
Sauvignon first, because it's fabulous. If you don't taste
it, how are you going to know whether or not you should buy
it? And I didn't come 3,000 miles not to sell you wine." So
those are the tools I use.
But if the tour itself doesn't draw the buyer and the
key customers, it doesn't do me any good to have the Viognier
under the table and pull all these little tricks to get them
to discover that there is such a thing as Arrowood. I don't
want the 7-11 buyer at my table. If I had a $3 bottle of
wine, I'd be thrilled that he shows up. But that's not my
buyer. My buyer is a high-end, high-profile account that
gets catered to by the distributor. There's no reason for
him to come out.
So at this point, I find that we're spending too much
time and too much money putting a tour together, when the
high-profile wineries that could maybe draw people out, that
don't have samples available through their distributor,
unfortunately, don't participate. So I don't have the
ability to ride on their notoriety, or vice versa. And I
don't mind sharing, I don't mind the fact that next to me are
three other wineries that perhaps nobody cares about, but
that will be discovered because they happen to be next to the
table that has the Viognier.
And when they're there, I like to say, "I have Viognier,
but have you tried their Sauvignon Blanc? We don't have
Sauvignon Blanc, but when I drink Sauvignon Blanc, this is
the Sauvignon Blanc I drink." Because it's positive. The
more involved they become, if they buy this Sauvignon Blanc,
it's a Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc. My job is to promote
Arrowood and Sonoma County, because my competition is
everywhere, but especially outside of Sonoma County. If we
draw them into the county, I have a better chance of getting
my hands on that. If they're going to Napa, I'll never get
to touch them.
So if they come over here for Kunde's Sauvignon Blanc,
then I win, because once they're at Kunde's, they're going to
say, "Where else should I go?" Kunde is going to say, "Go to
Arrowood. They have a great Viognier, or a great Cabernet
Sauvignon, or go to Matanzas Creek." And it becomes a circle
So why am I not big on it? I find that that hasn't
worked. I also think that the Sonoma County Wineries
Association, because they don't have really creative people
working there- -and they work hard, don't get me wrong, but
they work a little bit like I do when I'm in the office.
They work real hard, but they're not the best at what they
do. They need somebody to be creative, and then these nuts-
and-bolts people that are working with the Sonoma County
group could make it happen. They'd be terrific at making it
happen, but they're spinning their wheels trying to come up
with clever ideas.
Then they call people like me who don't have clever
ideas. I can look at the idea and say, "That's great, yes,
I'll be part of it." But don't ask me to come up with it.
I've got a business to run. So we need somebody who can come
up with the ideas.
The second problem is that we are a Napa wannabe. It's
being run by people who can't come up with a better idea than
somebody else did. So our auction doesn't have the glitz and
glamour that the Napa auction does. All the big buyers go to
Napa, and we just kind of put this event together with barrel
tastings do you know that at one point, Richard and I--our
winery is very small, we can't afford to donate a barrel of
wine. That's a lot of wine. That's twenty cases. We can't
do that. So we had this really cute little barrel, actually
a quarter of a barrel. We thought, Let's do this. We'll
donate this little barrel and the wine that goes with it, and
somebody who doesn't have $10,000 to spend could bid on it.
It could be fun." They refused our donation, because they
wanted it to be full barrels. Well, that's absurd.
So now, remember, we cannot be a Napa with the big
buyers, because they've already spent their money in Napa.
So what we should do is have an auction where things are
affordable so that the average consumer, like you and me,
could afford to go and maybe find some fun things. A little
expensive, but affordable, like a quarter-barrel of wine.
That would be really exotic.
Well, they can't do that. So now what's happening is we
have an expensive auction with nobody to spend money, because
they've already spent their money. So the Sonoma Valley
group gets together and says, "We want to do this. We want
to raise money for our hospital. You guys have thirteen
different causes that nobody can identify. We have a cause
that we think is important to us, so we're going to have our
own auction, and it's going to be a spoof on all these snooty
So they have things like--I don't know, like a party, a
barbecue, but you're not allowed to wear ties. You're not
allowed to wear black tie, you're not allowed to get all
stuffy. It's a barbecue, let's have fun. They have wine
auction lots that are affordable. They will put together
something like "Things reviewed by Bon Appetlt magazine."
These are things that the average consumer, who's not a wine
geek, who doesn't read the Wine Spectator and the Wine
Advocate, the kind of person that has wine as part of a
healthy lifestyle, is interested in good recipes-
Is this the Sonoma Valley Vintners?
Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Association. And it's on
Labor Day weekend. Richard and I look at each other every
year and go, "Oh, god, do we have to do this?" But we do it,
and it's fun. But it's put together by creative people.
Mind you, some of the creative people who put it together are
vintners, and there are some very creative vintners out
there. Richard and I are not, but we will support the group.
What's happening with Sonoma County Wineries Association, is
that the focus has shifted, and it's ineffective. Yes,
ineffective, I believe personally, so I don't really want to
be a part of it.
What about the Family Winemakers [of California]?
part of that?
A. Arrowood: Yes. The Family Winemakers of California is a very good
organization from a marketing point of view. It's all small
vintners, or there's the impression that they're all small
vintners. The public is very interested in attending those
tastings. They are probably some of the very best-attended
tastings also for the trade, because a lot of the vintners
that go to the Family Winemakers tastings don't offer samples
of those wines on a regular basis.
And the tastings always focus on currently available
wine and something from the past, so that even if you've had
a sample of a current Arrowood wine this year, you'll also be
able to taste the '88 Cabernet Sauvignon that was voted the
best in California and hasn't been available for three years.
Let ' s say you have four cases in your cellars . Or you may
have sold six bottles to your best customer. You can now say
to him, "By the way, I tasted the '88 Cabernet Sauvignon that
I sold you two years ago, and if you still have it in your
cellar, hold onto it, because it's a dynamite wine. You can
drink it now, but it's going to be even better in two or
three years." Or, "I spoke to the winemaker personally and
he said, 'Da.'" Because that's what the Family Winemaker
I see. Are there any others that you are particularly active
in, any other associations?
No. I personally am not a very socially active person,
either on the road or hiding out. [laughter)
Understandably. Well, I actually think that answers most of
my questions, unless you have something that you'd like to
add. I really thank you for your time.
Oh, I'm happy to do it. I hope it made sense. I have a
tendency sometimes to get off on a tangent and ride my horse.
Transcriber: Shannon Page
Final Typist: Shana Chen
Production Editor: Carolyn Rice
TAPE GUIDE -- Richard Arrowood
Interview 1: August 24, 1995
tape 1, side A
tape 1, side B
tape 2, side A
tape 2, side B
Interview 2: November 13, 1995
tape 3, side A
tape 3, side B
tape 4, side A
Interview 3: February 6, 1996
tape 5, side A
tape 5, side B
tape 6, side A
tape 6, side B
LIST OF APPENDICES --Richard L. Arrowood
A "Mead on Wine" article re. Arrowood wines by Jerry D. Mead 132
B Wine Spectator announcement, April 30, 1995, re. Arrowood
1993 White Riesling.
C "The Ashington-Pickett Wine Review" announcement, Vol. 1,
Issue 11, re. Arrowood 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1994. 134
D The Underground Wine Journal (Vol. XIV, No. 6) and San
Francisco Chronicle (July 28, 1993) announcements re.
Arrowood 1991 and 1992 releases. 135
E Arrowood Vineyards and Winery wine list, 1994. 137
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ARROWOOD ON TARGET Richard
Arrowood is pure and simple one of the
great winemakers of the world. It's hard to
believe it has been more than 20 years
since I first met the strapping young man
(historian Leon Adams called him cherub-
faced at the time) who opened Chateau St.
Jean as the property's first full charge
Those were days of enthusiasm and
experimentation, of learning the secrets of
some of Sonoma County's greatest
vineyards, many paid tribute to in dozens of
vineyard-designated wines. Arrowood and
St. Jean made some vineyards and growers
as famous as the Chateau itself, names like
Robert Young Vineyard" and "La Petite
Arrowood was best known for his white
wines at the the Chateau and he was one of
the earliest successful producers of late
harvest, Botrytised dessert wines in the
German style that commanded prices as
high as $40. which was a bundle in 1975
and on a par with prices commanded by
Ego and ambition should have sent
Arrowood out on his own sooner than they
did, but the St. Jean association was a long
and generally pleasant one. Walking away
from that kind of relationship wasn't easy,
and Arrowood actually juggled Winemaster
duties at St. Jean for a couple of years after
opening his own place. The fact that wife
Alis had an impressive background in wine
marketing and was a full working partner
and investor made it possible.
Arrowood still focuses on great
vineyards, but for the most part he now
blends several together with spectacular
results rather than making a series of
individual vineyard wines.
And another new thingsome critics, this
one included, think his red wines are now
even better than the whites that made him
Arrowood 1991 "Sonoma" Cabernet
Sauvignon ($24.50) Words are inadequate
to describe this absolutely delicious red
wine. Spicy berry and cassis flavors for a
start, with a tart cherry middle, followed by
sweet oak and spicy, cedary complexity.
Silky, supple, velvety texture and finish.
After-flavors that just go on and on. Great
now and can only get better with some
cellar time. Rating: 97/88
Arrowood 1993 "Russian River -
Saralee's Vineyard" Pinot Blanc ($25)
Most of the wine labeled Pinot Blanc in this
country is actually made from a grape
called Muscadet. (It's a long story that I've
told before and will tell again, but take my
word for it this time.) The real Pinot Blanc is
By Jerry D. Mead Vol. #F, #47
basically an albino version of Pinot Noir,
with the same tiny berries, grape clusters,
leaf structure and all. That's what this is,
and it's from what may be the only
documented one acre of pure Pinot Blanc in
California. If this is what it's about, pull out
all that Viognier people are planting and
give us more of this exciting grape. Wow!
Lush, rich, Chardonnay-like but with its own
character, too. Very pineapple-y, barrel
sweet and with lots of vanillin. Only 300
cases for the world. Expensive but worth it
for the experience. Rating: 98/82
Arrowood 1993 "Sonoma"
Chardonnay ($18) One hundred percent
barrel-fermented and. for the technically
oriented who care to know, 100 percent
underwent malo-lactic fermentation. Fined
but not filtered. Citrus and pineapple fruit
with lots of oak vanillin. Bouquet and
aftertaste both provide notes of toasty oak
and a hint of something reminiscent of roast
coffee beans. As tasty as it is, it will be even
better a year from now. Rating: 88/84
Arrowood also has a second label called
"Domaine Du Grand Archer," which is
different than most second labels. While
many wineries buy wines on the bulk market
to sell under second brands, Grand Archer
WINE OF THE WEEK
Grand Archer 1992 "Sonoma"
Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) Ripe plum,
berry and cassis, with a little chocolate
and anise for for complexity. Full bodied
and substantial; firm backbone but the
tannins are not harsh or astringent.
Bittersweet chocolate finish. Won't be
embarrassed in the company of wines
commanding twice the price. Rating;
wines are 100 percent made at Arrowood
and are simply wines that didn't quite meet
the standards of the first wine. Some of
them are so good you wonder why they
didn't pass muster.
Grand Archer 1993 "Sonoma"
Chardonnay ($1 0) Less ripe and rich than
that of its stablemate. the fining
(clarification) didn't leave it as brilliantly
clear. Its slight haze doesn't affect the taste
and is the risk a winemaker takes when he
chooses to avoid as much processing as
possible. Grapefruit and citrus flavors and
more of that toasty complexity, which is
rarely seen at this price. Crisp and bone dry.
Grand Archer 1992 "Sonoma" Merlot
($10) There were only 400 cases to begin
with and it has been in the marketplace for
about 30 days. Track this one down fast.
Even the winery is almost sold out. A steal
deal, and good enough to be most winery's
first label. Soft, rich, ripe, black cherry
flavors. Mouthfilling; supple; lots of flavor.
Arrowood wines are available in about 20
states, but usually only at better restaurants
and wine shops. Largest production is of
Cabernet and Chardonnay. Merlot and
Grand Archer wines will be more difficult to
find. For nearest retail outlet contact:
Arrowood Winery, Box 987, 14347 Sonoma
Hwy.. Glen Ellen. CA 95442 (707) 938-
APRIL 30, 1995
...Sweets for the Sweet...
Richard Arrowood continues to make California's
finest late-harvest Rieslings.
of 100 points
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
H S. S.
PRODUCED AND BOTTLED BY
ARROWOOD VINEYARDS 4 WINERY, GLEN ELLEN, CA, USA 95442
BW 5588 . TABLE WINE
11993 WHITE RIESLING, Special Select Late Harvest
Russian River Valley, Oak Meadow Vineyard
Gloriously sweet, rich, supple and complex, this wine is even more of a
mouthful than the name. A dessert wine from California that unfolds a
jmany layered swirl of honey, caramel, apricot, pear and exotic tropical
fruit and spices, all balanced gorgeously on a fine thread of acidity.
Wonderful now, but should be fine through 1998, or even 2000. Classic.
=., - .-."- , , .^
;'|^^qsT\.OF;picE JB;OX .1 49044 -.^^
P - --- ' "'' '''* *
Vol. 1, Issue 11
"How Lucky Can You Get?...
Very LucJ<y if You're Looking for Wines That Taste Wonderful...
and are Value-for-Money!"
PRODUCED AND BOTTLED BY
ARROWOOD VINEYARDS & WINERY, GLEN ELLEN. CA. USA 95442
BW 5588 TABLE WINE
1991 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
..."Sir Richard of Arrowood" (Richard Arrowood is the owner and winemaker at
Arrowood Winery] has released another stunning Cabernet Sauvignon that's made for
the now... and beyond! It pours gracefully into the glass, showing a deep, dark
cordovan color The boquet is a sophisticated aroma of cedar and cassis with a light
blend of herbs It is a skillful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot grapes, which is the formula for a world-class
French Bordeaux The tastes of rasberries, cherries, blackberries, and a little black
currant are the byproduct of such a blending. The tannins, at first, are just a little sharp,
so try this: Fill a glass three quarters full, then leave it for just ten minutes On your
return, you should find it soft, smooth and heavenly!
On Christmas morning, this is the sort of wine that I know the gods will be hoping to
find in their stockings!
A DEFINTTVE GUIDE *^TO THE RNEST WINES OF THE WORLD
Volume XIV, Number 6 January 1993
Selected Barrel Tasting Notes
Arrowood. The 1991 Viognier "Sara
Lee's Vineyard", Russian River Val
ley, mediumyellow, has a perfumed nose
of peach/pear /pineapple/nch lime/citron
and very rich flavors of peach/pineapple/
citron/citrus. It has very good balance,
style andamedium long, lingering peach/
pineapple/lime finish (0). The 1991 Char-
donnay, Sonoma County, mediumyel
low, has a perfumed nose of pineapple/
apple/citrus (lime peel)/vanilla. The fla
vors of tropical fruit/apple/peach/pear
are rich ana harmonious with firm acid
ity, good balance and a long, lingering
tropical citric, vanilla- tone d finish (0).
The 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma
County, dark ruby, has a perfumed nose
of jammy black cherry/currants/vanilla/
spice/blackberry /chocolate/hint of pep
per. The black cherry/currants/berry/
chocolate flavors offer some vanilla. It
has great balance, style and along linger
ing, spicy, fruity finish (0).
O .J. C
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VINEYARDS AND WINERY
Chardonnay 750ml $ 20.50
Chardonnay 750ml $ 23.75
Cuvee Michel Berthoud
Viognier 750ml $ 25.00
Cabernet Sauvignon 750ml $ 24.50
Merlot 750ml $ 27.50
Special Select Late 375ml $ 27. 5O
Harvest White Riesling
RESERVE SPECIALE NINES
1.5L bottle size
3L bottle size
5L bottle size
6L bottle size
DOMAINE DU GRAND ARCHER WINES
$ 9.95 bottle
BOX 1240 H347 SONOMA HWY. GLEN ELLEN, CALIFORNIA, USA 95442 707-938.5170 FAX 707-938-5195
INDEX- -Richard Arrowood
American Vineyard Foundation, 103
appellations, 38, 89-91, 93
Annaker, Paul, 39- A 1
Arrowood, Alis, 15, 41, 45, 53-55,
57-59, 67, 77, 88, 102, 103, 105;
Arrowood, Allison, 15, 20, 26, 54
Arrowood, Clyde (father), 4, 5, 8,
22, 29-30, 56, 81
Arrowood family, 3-4
Arrowood, Holly, 20
Arrowood, Richard, 107-111, 113,
115-116, 118-119, 124, 126, 128;
Arrowood Vineyards and Winery, 41,
53-87, 102, 104-129
awards, 27, 36, 59, 88, 128
Bacigalupi Vineyards, 38
Balzer, Robert, 32-33
Bandiera Winery, 90
Bank of America, 25, 44, 63-68
Belle Terre Vineyards, 38, 93-94
Beltane Ranch, 38
Benziger Winery, 60
Beringer Winery, 97-98
Biever, Margrit, 100-101
botrytis cinerea, 31-33
bottling, 78, 80, 109
Bundschu, Jim, 90
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms (BATF) , 69, 90
Calera (Vineyard), 94
California Bank, 25
California State University, Fresno,
5, 9-15, 29, 53
California State University,
Sacramento, 5, 9, 13
California Wine Marketing, 113-114
Callaway Vineyard and Winery, 53-54
Campbell, Patrick, 103
canopy management, 85-86
Carton, Edward J. (Ned), 102, 105,
champagne -making techniques: methode
champenoise, 16; charmant bulk
Chappellet (winery), 26
Chateau Souverain, 16, 77
Chateau St. Jean Winery, 15, 20-45,
38, 53, 55-57, 59, 62, 63, 68-71,
73-74, 75, 77, 89, 93, 94, 96-
100, 107-110, 112-114, 116, 118-
Chavez, Everisto, 107
chemistry, 5-10, 12-13, 15, 39-40
Cucuzza, Vincent, 6
Del Sarto, Bob, 15
Delaney, Van, 38-39
Dick, Henry and Ron, 38, 92
enology, 8, 10-11, 13, 16, 29
equipment, 17-18, 33, 68-69, 76-78,
Equitable Life Assurance Society, 25
Family Winemakers of California,
Fay Vineyard, 94
Fernandez, Barney, 31
Ferrari-Carano Winery, 31, 65, 77
filtering and fining, 69-70, 75
financing wine industry, 25, 26, 27,
29, 41-42, 44, 62-68, 113. See
also individual banks
Firestone Winery, 26, 43
First Northern Bank of Dixon, 64
Frank Johnson Vineyards, 38
Friedman, Peter, 18
Gallo [E&J] Winery, 21
Gibson, Jo, 57-58
Goff, Ezra, 22
Goode, Dale, 92
Grand Archer, 81, 122-124
grape supplies and prices, 27-28,
32-33, 37-38, 72, 74-75, 82-87
grapegrowing, 11-12, 27, 37-39, 42,
66, 91-93, 97, 108
Green, Russ, 92
Heck, Adolph, 5, 8
Heck, Richie Ann, 29
Heitz, Joseph, 10, 94
Helmuth, Dwayne, 54
Hemphill, Allan, 8, 10, 28-31, 42,
Henry, Bob, 100-101
Hobarts, Tom, 103
Italian Swiss Colony Winery, 2, 15-
Jackson, Jess, 43, 96
Jensen, Josh, 94
Jensen, Kenneth, 4
Juvinall, Drew, 21
Keezer, Alan, 108
Keith, Richard, 26
Kendall- Jackson Vineyards, 83
Kenwood Winery, 77
Korbel Champagne Cellars, 5, 8-10,
12-16, 28, 29
Kunde, Richard and Saralee, 83-84,
100, 126-127. See also Saralee's
L.A. Magazine, 38-39
labels, 33-34, 69-70, 77, 80-82,
104, 109, 122-124; vineyard-
designated, 27, 84, 91
Lloyd, Eileen McLemore, 54-55
marketing, 30-31, 35-36, 38-39, 54-
55, 70, 87, 96-101, 105, 109-110,
Martha's Vineyard, 94
Matanzas Creek Winery, 127
McCrea Ranch, 38
McCrea, Richard, 59
Mechanics Bank, 63-64
Merritt, John, 90
Merzoian, Bob and Ed, 15, 21-26, 28-
30, 33-36, 39, 41-42, 44-45
Merzoian, Jean, 25, 36
Metheny, Maggie, 64-65
Mondavi, Robert, 100-101
Moone, Michael, 96-100
Motto, Vic, 66-67
Napa Valley, 60, 88-89, 92, 99-101,
Nightingale, Myron, 32
Northwestern Graphics, 34
Norton, Dick, 10
O'Donnell, Steve, 54
Oak Meadow Vineyards, 91
Pacific Coast Farm Credit Service,
Pauls en, Pat, 22, 81
Petrucci, Vince, 10-12
phylloxera, 86-87, 91-92
Piper Sonoma (Winery), 55, 57
Preston Ranch, 91
pricing, 32-33, 35-36, 77-78, 87,
100, 110-112, 114, 123-124
Production Credit Association, 25
Ramey, David, 74
Remick Ridge Ranch, 81-82
Renfree, John, 20-21
Ridge (Vineyard), 94
River Road Vineyard, 31, 33
River View (Vineyards), 38
Robert Young Vineyards, 31-32, 33,
38, 93-94, 98
Saji, Keizo, 43
Santa Nella Winery, 29
Santa Rosa High School, 5
Santa Rosa Junior College, 5-6, 13,
Santa Rosa Stainless Steel, 33
Sanwa Bank, 63
Saralee's Vineyard (s), 84, 91, 94,
Sbragia, Ed, 97
Security Pacific Bank, 25, 63-64
Setrakian Winery, 21
Shanken, Marvin, 31
Sheffield, Ken, 15, 21-27, 30, 35,
36, 38-41, 44-45
Silverado Partners, 96. See also
Smothers, Dick and Tom, 22-23, 81-82
Smothers, Marcy, 22, 82
Sonoma County, 1-3, 38, 59-61, 72,
Sonoma County Wineries Association,
Sonoma Grapevines, 83-84
Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers
Association, 90, 127-128
Sonoma Vineyards, 15, 17-19, 23, 31-
33, 35, 37, 38
Southern Wine and Spirits, 112-113
Strong, Rodney, 15, 17-19, 23, 31,
35, 55, 92
Suntory International, 28, 41-45,
56, 63, 109
Vanoni, Donna (mother), 1-5, 37
Vanoni family, 1-5, 37
Vercelli, Joe, 15
vineyard designation, 27, 38-39, 84,
Vino Farms, 65
Vino Yes, 114
viticulture, 10-12, 31, 83-89, 91-94
Von Staaveren, Don, 56, 70-71, 97-98
water, bottled, 39-41
Watson, Glen, 5-7
Wells Fargo Bank, 22
Wente Brothers Winery, 32, 64
Wildwood Vineyards (now Kunde Estate
Wine Institute, 103
Wine Spectator, 31, 38, 128
winemaking, 8, 9-12, 17-18, 27, 29,
33-35, 42-43, 69-78, 84-85, 93-
winemaster, 24, 43, 93-95
yeast, 17-18, 74-75
Young, Robert, 31-33, 37, 92-93
Riesling, 31-32, 37, 92
Sauvignon Vert, 92
Cabernet Franc, 62
Cabernet Sauvignon, 31, 62, 69, 71-
72, 74, 78, 89, 92, 93, 94, 95,
98, 110-112, 115, 121-124, 126-
champagne, 16, 17
Chardonnay, 31, 62, 70, 71-72, 74,
77-79, 89, 95, 98, 110, 122, 124
Domaine du Grand Archer label, 81
Malbec, 62, 72
Merlot, 62, 72, 95-96, 98
Petit Verdot, 62
Pinot Blanc, 72, 78, 84
Remick Ridge Ranch label, 81-82
Riesling, 31-36, 70, 72, 91
Sauvignon Blanc, 126-127
styles, Beerenauslese, 36,
Syrah, 72, 78, 84, 91
Viognier, 72, 78, 84, 91, 125-127
Cabernet Sauvignon, 37, 74, 82, 89,
Chardonnay, 37-38, 74, 82, 92-94
Merlot, 11-12, 82, 83, 92
Petite Sirah, 92
Pinot Blanc, 37, 84
Pinot Noir, 37, 89, 94
Carole E. Hicke
B.A., University of Iowa; economics
M.A., San Francisco State University; U.S. history
with emphasis on the American West; thesis: "James
Rolph, Mayor of San Francisco."
Interviewer /editor /writer, 1978-present , for
business and law firm histories, specializing in
oral history techniques. Independently employed.
Interviewer-editor, Regional Oral History Office,
University of California, Berkeley, 1985 to
present, specializing in California legal,
political, and business histories.
Author: Heller, Ehrznan, White & McAuliffe: A
Century of Service to Clients and Community, 1991;
history of Farella, Braun & Martel; history of the
Federal Judges Association.
Editor (1980-1985) newsletters of two professional
historical associations: Western Association of
Women Historians and Coordinating Committee for
Women in the Historical Profession.
Visiting lecturer, San Francisco State University
in U.S. history, history of California, history of
Hawaii, legal oral history.
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